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Hyperion Records

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Ideal landscape (1776) by Johann Sebastian Bach (1748-1778)
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67786
Recording details: August 2009
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: June 2010
Total duration: 16 minutes 15 seconds

'Danny Driver, a recent addition to Hyperion's bejewelled roster of pianists, makes his superlative case for music that is as inventive as it is unsettling. Playing with imperturbable authority, he captures all the mercurial fits and starts of the G minor Sonata … it would be impossible to over-estimate Driver's impeccable technique and musicianship, and also a warmth missing from Pletnev's earlier and razor-sharp recital … this is one of the finest of all recent keyboard issues and Hyperion's sound and presentation are ideal' (Gramophone)

'Listening to this extraordinary music, it is easy to understand why the audiences who first heard it in the 1740s were thrilled and bewildered in equal measure … Driver meets the interpretative challenges with a lively mind, dexterity and warm sensibility in a way that brings CPE Bach's startling originality sharply into focus' (The Daily Telegraph)

'With 78 minutes of impeccable pianism, top-drawer recording quality and highly informative notes by Leta Miller, placing these remarkable works in context, this deserves a wide audience' (International Record Review)

'In terms of this selection of CPE 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 CPE Bach demands Danny Driver ensures a comprehensive realisation of these fascinating scores' (ClassicalSource.com)

Sonata in E flat major, H50 Wq52/1
composer
1747

Poco allegro  [8'15]
Adagio assai  [4'55]
Presto  [3'05]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The opening movement of the Sonata in E flat major H50 of 1747 has a galant character that sets it apart. Here Bach’s language at times becomes almost Mozartian, showing his mastery of the late eighteenth-century aesthetic. Most notable in this sonata, however, is the poignant slow movement, the most stunning example of the empfindsamer style on this recording. Fragmented phrases interspersed with rests and underlaid with frequent contrasts of dynamics characterize the introspective opening eight-bar phrase. The second phrase, in contrast, becomes more continuous, until a melody in dotted-rhythm octaves in the left hand intrudes. These three thematic ideas recur throughout the movement, which ends with an improvisatory flourish leading to a fermata, elaborated on this recording by an extensive cadenza mirroring Bach’s own improvisational inspirations. The sonata then concludes with a virtuosic Presto in 3/8—a perpetual motion corrente recalling the Baroque suite, but filled with Emanuel Bach’s eccentricities.

The slow movement of H50—and similar movements with notated dynamic contrasts—raises the question of the instrument for which Bach’s sonatas were intended. Clearly, much of his work at Frederick’s court involved harpsichord-playing, but the harpsichord could only effect quick dynamic contrasts through the use of a double manual. On the clavichord—an instrument Bach loved and which he used throughout his life—the player could create dynamic changes by variations in finger pressure, but the overall range was restricted to piano or softer. By the late 1740s, however, Frederick had still another keyboard instrument at his court: the fortepiano (a fact made particularly famous by JS Bach’s visit in 1747, on which occasion he improvised a fugue on one of these instruments using a theme provided by Frederick). Therefore, performance of these works by Emanuel Bach himself on the piano is not only possible, but even likely.

from notes by Leta Miller © 2010

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