Matters Musical

There is such a wealth of music online now, but I’ve been taking in Igor Levit’s daily house concert, a graduate course in Beethoven, and marvelous pianism despite less than ideal recording circumstances.

And among many collaborative bits I’ve heard online recently, this performance of the opening of the CPE Bach Magnificat from Salzburg is particular hoot. (As the friend who sent it suggested, PDQ Bach’s spirit was clearly involved as well).

Tuesday Listen: CPE Bach

One of the many Bach children, Carl Philip Emmanuel, was perhaps the greatest composer (worthy of comparison with JSB, and honored by Mozart among others).  He is best known for keyboard music full of imaginative color and flights of fancy.

Here is one of hundreds of his keyboard pieces, the evocative farewell to his Silbermann Clavichord.  (Here in a piano performance.)

Evocative–and to my ears–some elements of a modern improvisatory feel.

He also wrote lots of ornate showpieces, for the piano, then a relatively new instrument, such as the piano lesson favorite Solfeggietto in C Minor (sorry about the weird open).
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Beautiful Music: CPB Bach on Flute & Harp

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The manuscript (but perhaps not in CPE’s hand) of the Flute Sonata in A.

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).

Selah.