CPE Bach’s music, long overshadowed by his father’s achievement, has been finding its way back onto concert programs. I heard Peter Wispelway give one of Emanuel Bach’s Cello Concerti with the Boston Symphony a few years back and was delighted by the charm and scale (the teeny-tiny little development section in the sonata-form first movement was clearly done tongue in cheek.)
I encountered CPE, like many student pianists, through the Solfegietto in C-minor (page 12 or so of ’59 Piano Solos You Like To Play’) courtesy of my childhood piano teacher. (She couldn’t help sniffing at it a bit, the junior Bachs, no matter how revered in their own era, have been overshadowed by JSB).
Years later, I’m no longer worried whether CPE was an epigone, or a fine composer in his own right, today I simply enjoy listening and playing his music both for the feeling of expressive improvisation, sly virtuosity, and also a very tender way with a slow movement melody. So what if the father built cathedrals in sound, while the son merely finely-wrought pieces of classical furniture? There is room for both.
To wit two examples:
A gorgeous performance by flautist Denis Bouriakov of the Solo Sonata in A Minor.
And a harp sonata of his that I found on YouTube, while looking for an acceptable performance of the Solfeggietto (couldn’t find one). This is harpist Marie-Claire Jamet recorded from an old Nonsuch LP (complete with surface noise, which I somehow find endearing). The performance is droll and lively: a beautiful, optimistic way to start your day (which in Cambridge is a perfect wash of September sun with a touch of briskness).