Olga Martynova

J.C. Bach: Selected Clavier Sonatas

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The influence of the "London Bach" upon Mozart is often thought to reside in the former's orchestral and operatic works, which Mozart is known to have studied closely. The little keyboard sonatas recorded here, however, were equally influential. The child Mozart turned two of them (plus a third not included here) into piano concertos, and the patterns found in these works continued to hang in Mozart's mind into his maturity. Consider the impressive Keyboard Sonata in C minor, Op. 17/2, composed in 1772 and 1773, whose emotional path closely parallels that of the Mozart Piano Sonata in C minor, K. 457. The other sonatas here are all in two movements rather than three. Yet not only the sunny mood but also the confident three-part structures of the sonata expositions, with first theme, second theme, and closing theme spelling out a large IV-V-I cadence, sound extremely Mozartian in retrospect. These sonatas were written for Bach's powerful student-patrons, with Queen Consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg at the top of the list, and they have a pleasing combination of sophistication and modest technical demands. The earlier set, Opus 5, was the first British publication to specify either harpsichord or piano. A harpsichord was still the primary choice, but the playing of Russian keyboardist Olga Martynova, while impressive in its precision, is a bit too mechanical for the coquettish spirit of the music. The studio sound from the Russian audiophile label Caro Mitis, however, is, if anything, even beyond the imprint's usual high standard, and the album as a whole is about brilliant surfaces over which the listener slides with pleasure. The detailed and engaging booklet notes by Larisa Kirillina, given in Russian, German, and English, are a bonus.

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