Fanfare: CD Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
These three violin sonatas and Arioso were composed by C. P. E. Bach while he was still in the employ of Frederick the Great, therefore its musical construction is more conventional and less wildly imaginative than in his later years. Of course it is well written—nothing that any of Bach’s sons ever wrote was really poorly written—and it is indeed pleasant to listen to, particularly since violinist Breuninger plays with an elegant style and lovely tone for a non-vibrato musician, but little of the music per se grabs one’s attention. Piet Kuijken (b. 1972), yet another member of the distinguished Dutch musical family, accompanies Breuninger sensitively on fortepiano. Happily, neither musician is as dull in musical approach as Jed Wentz is in the Flute Sonatas (Brilliant), and this helps the listener get more out of the music than might otherwise have been possible.
The liner notes, in fact, almost suggest that these works were the dual product of ennui and duty to his employer. To quote: “The monarch, whose custom was to play the flute in the circle of his musicians of an evening, leaned towards a somewhat bland Gallic style, and the relationship between the two remained distant. The self-confident Bach junior was unwilling to recognize the king’s claim to ‘the best taste in literature and the arts. The King saw that Bach thought this and held a personal grudge against him; as a result, he did not appreciate thisgreat artist as he deserved,’ Carl Friedrich Zelter recalled.” Once in a while there are moments of interest in these sonatas (after all, Bach was a great composer), but it’s clearly evident that the “somewhat bland Gallic style” that Frederick preferred influenced these pieces. Even the surprisingly lively, dramatic opening Allegro di molto of the Sonata in B♭, where the dramatic pauses make the music sound closer to the C. P. E. Bach of his Hamburg years, is not quite on the level of his later concertos, symphonies, or keyboard works.
Your decision to acquire this disc, then, will probably depend on whether you are a C. P. E. Bach completist, or are curious to hear how he adapted his genius to more conventional means. As I said, there is absolutely nothing to criticize in the playing of these two excellent musicians, and the sound quality is superb, forward and clear while still having a bit of room ambience.
Lynn René Bayley
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