C. P. E. Bach
Keyboard Sonatas – in G minor [H47 Wq65/17]; in A [H29 Wq48/6]; in B flat [H25 Wq48/2]; in C minor [H27 Wq48/4]; in E flat [H50 Wq52/1]
Danny Driver (piano)
Recorded 31 July and 1 & 2 August 2009 in Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, UK
CD No: HYPERION CDA67786 Duration: 78 minutes Reviewed: June 2010
C. P. E. Bach Keyboard Sonatas – Danny Driver/Hyperion
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
This is a release to be listened to, and re-listened to, rather than read about – for although the music is of its period, in this case the 1740s, it is so individual that it is the ears and the senses that will unravel it in a way that makes words inadequate.
In a nutshell, this release embraces five keyboard sonatas by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), the second-born son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Each is in three movements; and while that arrangement may conform to classical style, there is nothing predictable within such a framework. C. P. E. Bach – a bridge-builder between the Baroque and the Classical – may be heard as indulging the former era’s Fantasia mode, yet with a restless, searching approach: the first movement of the G minor Sonata is alternately spare and ornate, sometimes suggesting a sonata-form movement without quite getting there; and, overall, and across the fifteen movements here presented, one will recognise the brilliance of Domenico Scarlatti, the wit of Haydn and the probing innocence of Mozart – but with something intrinsically personal that is decidedly ‘of itself’.
In Danny Driver these pieces have a musician who has total identification with them, and his fluent, inquisitive playing is a delight, the sound of his piano attractively mellow but with an engaging sparkle when required. It’s good to find Driver exploring music at the opposite end of the scale to his notable championing of York Bowen’s output for piano (also for Hyperion), and it would be good to find Driver setting-down some Schumann, the composer that he so impressed with when he was setting out on his career.
In terms of this selection of C. P. E. Bach’s sonatas, it’s a case of once you start, you’re hooked, something enhanced by playing of clarity, depth and poise, Driver always willing to go with the music’s unpredictability. This is invention at once intellectual and engagingly entertaining, containing the promise of surprise while retaining a secret or two for the next playing. There is an unpredictable logic to these pieces that is very likeable, be it the individual slow movements or the toccata-like faster ones; and whatever C. P. E. Bach demands Danny Driver ensures a comprehensive realisation of these fascinating scores.