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Track(s) taken from CDA67995

Sonata in A flat major, H31

1742/3, published in 1744; No 2 of Württemberg Sonatas, Wq49

Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: January 2013
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Tim Oldham
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: January 2014
Total duration: 13 minutes 7 seconds

Cover artwork: Reclining male nude supported on left arm, looking upwards by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779)
Courtesy of the Martin von Wagner Museum, University of Würzburg


'The playing here is miles away from the clangorous, congested sound once so typical of harpsichord recitals, denounced by Sir Thomas Beecham as like listening to ‘copulating skeletons’ … hopefully, we will get more new recordings from Esfahani. I’d love to hear him in some of Emanuel’s many keyboard concertos' (The Mail on Sunday)» More

'The elusive fusion of thematic intricacy, 'Baroque' rhetoric and 'proto-Classical' Sturm und Drang offered by the instrument are caught perfectly by Esfahani's supple touch and disarming sense of rhetorical pacing' (Gramophone)

'I spent most of the year procrastinating, unable to stop listening and start writing an article on CPE Bach. Perhaps I was enjoying the process too much, or maybe I wasn't able to wrap my mind around the complexities of the composer's music. Mahan Esfahani's traversal of the 'Württemberg' Sonatas was one of the delights of the composer's anniversary year, fully embodying the enormous range and subtely of Bach's expressive language, his playfulness, his tenderness and his manifold idiosyncrasies' (Gramophone)

'Esfahani's first solo disc provides a particularly welcome introduction onto the world stage for an artist matching, in 'expression', CPE Bach himself' (BBC Music Magazine)» More

'Esfahani's debut solo recording is of music that, appropriately enough, boldly breaks rank in pursuit of new ideals. C. P. E. Bach’s six keyboard sonatas … are models of the unconventional, exploratory in many respects, and exemplars of the empfindsamer Stil that gave voice to the expressive concerns of a number of European composers in the mid-eighteenth century … Bach’s guiding interest in the artistic sensibilities that produced such movements as Sturm und Drang is clearly evident in music of frequently changing mood and affekt, and it is this sense of the unsettled, of not quite knowing what’s being aimed for or where the music is heading, that makes his music at once so interesting and so difficult to interpret well … The many sudden dynamic changes in the ‘Württemberg Sonatas’ Esfahani has to achieve on the harpsichord through changes of manual or by adding or subtracting registers, and the sureness with which he does it, especially mid-phrase and at speed, with barely a breath between them, is impressive … The ‘Württemberg Sonatas’ … need a virtuoso interpreter not only to bring off the more showy aspects of the writing—which Esfahani does with strong-fingered assurance—but also to make sense of the inherent strangeness of other parts of the music. The opening movement of No. 6 is an operatic scena in all but name, a recitative keenly characterized by tonal contrast as well as by-phrases that peter out with little real continuity or resolution. In lesser hands the movement would fall to bits, but Esfahani makes coherence out of apparent incoherence, manages to get the music to hang together and establishes dramatic momentum, displaying an authoritative understanding of Bach’s rhetoric … As for his playing, in the best sense it is anything but unpredictable: sure-minded and vividly realized, it holds the attention with ease and is a pleasure to hear. This is an excellent recording and it can be thoroughly recommended' (International Record Review)» More

'In this winning performance by the young American-Iranian harpsichordist, one is taken aback by the avant-garde effects and abrupt changes of tempo and mood. The sound of his instrument—a reproduction based on models by the Berlin court harpsichord-maker Michael Mietke (d 1719)—enjoys a wide-ranging spectrum of timbres in Esfahani’s dexterous hands, but it is the verve of his allegros and the affecting pathos of his slow movements that mark him out as a special interpreter of this fascinating composer’s music in his tercentenary year' (The Sunday Times)» More

'One of the first releases of the Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach year revealed an emerging superstar in the Iranian-American harpsichordist' (The Sunday Times | 100 Best Records of the Year)

'This set of the Württemberg Sonatas of 1744, has a piquant quality; the timbres of Esfahani's harpsichord range from tangy to feathery as he responds to the music's rhythmic vibrancy and its juxtaposition of humor and drama, in which one can hear the keen influence on Haydn' (Listen, USA)

'Technique extraordinairement réactive, sens inné du son, sensibilité merveilleusement communicative : un tel rayonnement est chose rare … dans sa notice, Esfahani se livre à une analyse des mouvements extrêmement argumentée, qui témoigne d’une maturité saisissante. On a rarement entendu un Bach aussi près du texte et pourtant si libre, sidérant d’aisance dans les pages brillantes et débordant de tendresse dans les adagios.

L'Adagio non molto de la Sonate en si mineur résume le propos : la mélancolie tente de s'étourdir dans une feinte agitation, les silhouettes de Fiordiligi ou de la Comtesse se dessinent sous nos yeux. L’instrument (d’après Mietke) est particulièrement intéressant. Il combine les traditionnelles vertus de la facture allemande (timbre luthé, aigu merveilleusement vocal) et un registre médium d'une richesse expressive dont Esfahani joue en expert' (Diapason, France)» More

In contrast to the fiery tones of the first sonata, the Sonata in A flat major reveals C P E Bach’s gift for imitating the nuances of the human voice through the medium of the harpsichord. A rising opening melody is followed by a quick second theme whose intensity acts as a contrast to the virtual trio of singers heard at the beginning. Bach’s uniquely wayward musical personality is evident at certain points, such as the ending of the first half of the first movement when the music moves into a minor tonality and the emotionally charged cantabile is given dramatic impetus by the use of dissonance. Contrasts of mood are further explored in the second movement, a touching piece where the flittering between unrelated motifs almost ‘decomposes’ into quasi-recitative. Bach’s literary influences are apparent here, as he blurs the line between prosody and poetry. A sense of declamation is again evident in the final Allegro. Here the master of the intense and dramatic shows us that he has an equally developed sense of humour. What this lively dance for the fingers lacks in ‘Bachian’ counterpoint it gains in a very different kind of interplay—namely, that of timbres and Affekts.

from notes by Mahan Esfahani © 2014

Par contraste avec l’ardeur de cette première sonate, la Sonate en la bémol majeur révèle combien C. P. E. Bach était doué pour imiter les nuances de la voix humaine via le registre médium du clavecin. À une mélodie ascendante succède un second thème rapide, dont l’intensité tranche avec le trio de chanteurs virtuel du début. La personnalité musicale remarquablement imprévisible de Bach est, à certains moments, flagrante, comme à la fin de la première moitié du premier mouvement, quand la musique passe au mineur et que le cantabile chargé d’émotion se voit insuffler un élan dramatique par le recours à la dissonance. Les contrastes de climat sont explorés plus avant dans le deuxième mouvement, morceau touchant où le volettement entre des motifs non connexes se «décompose» presque en quasi-récitatif. Voilà un Bach aux influences littéraires évidentes, qui brouille la frontière entre prosodie et poésie. Le sentiment de déclamation se fait de nouveau patent dans l’Allegro final. Ici, le maître de l’intense et du tragique nous montre qu’il a un sens de l’humour tout aussi développé. Tout ce que cette entraînante danse pour les doigts n’a pas en contrepoint «bachien», elle le gagne dans un tout autre type de jeu—entre les timbres, les Affekts.

extrait des notes rédigées par Mahan Esfahani © 2014
Français: Hypérion

Im Gegensatz zu den feurigen Tönen der ersten Sonate offenbart die Sonate in As-Dur Emanuel Bachs Gabe, die Nuancen der menschlichen Stimme am Cembalo zu imitieren. Auf eine aufsteigende Anfangsmelodie folgt ein rasches zweites Thema, dessen Intensität als Gegengewicht zu dem „Sängerterzett“ vom Beginn eingesetzt wird. Bachs einzigartige und eigenwillige musikalische Persönlichkeit kommt an gewissen Stellen zum Ausdruck, so etwa am Ende der ersten Hälfte des ersten Satzes, wo die Musik nach Moll wechselt und das emotional aufgeladene Kantabile durch den Einsatz von Dissonanzen dramatische Triebkraft erhält. Auch im zweiten Satz finden Stimmungswechsel statt—es handelt sich dabei um ein anrührendes Stück, wo das Umherspringen zwischen unzusammenhängenden Motiven fast in ein „Quasi-Rezitativ“ zerfällt. Wenn er die Grenze zwischen Prosodie und Lyrik verschwimmen lässt, werden Bachs literarische Einflüsse offensichtlich. Im letzten Satz, Allegro, kommt wiederum eine gewisse Deklamatorik zum Vorschein. Hier zeigt der Meister des intensiven und dramatischen Stils, dass er einen ebenso ausgeprägten Sinn für Humor besitzt. Was diesem lebhaften Fingertanz an „Bachischem“ Kontrapunkt fehlt, wird durch eine völlig andere Art des Zusammenspiels wettgemacht—nämlich das der Timbres und Affekte.

aus dem Begleittext von Mahan Esfahani © 2014
Deutsch: Viola Scheffel

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