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Track(s) taken from CDA67995

Sonata in E flat major, H34

1742/3, published in 1744; No 5 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: 12 minutes 12 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

The brilliant Sonata in E flat major is one of the most sunny and extroverted utterances of the mid-eighteenth century. The first movement is characterized by its varied melodic contour, giving the impression of a fish leaping out of the water in the first bar, then falling immediately back in, and on each successive jump leaping and frolicking in a slightly different way. In contrast to this playful first idea, a second theme enters with great pathos, giving way once more to a feeling of elation stated in the most flamboyant manner with descending cascades of notes. Here Emanuel Bach truly shows his mettle as the master of a new aesthetic, as he uses unprepared chords, whether consonant or dissonant, to underline the affective momentum of his melodies. No longer must a composer depend on the Baroque method by which harmonies occur as a confluence of prepared contrapuntal lines.

The second movement’s fugal quality recalls the middle movement of the previous sonata in B flat major. As with that work, the idea of fugue is used as a topos or prop in order to highlight certain emotionally charged intervals, in this case an ascending seventh followed by a descending semitone in the opening theme. Bach uses a secondary theme in running semiquavers to give harmonic momentum and put the first theme into metrical relief.

The splendid third movement combines virtuosity with a cheeky sense for drama as a repeating-note figure propels moments of suspense. The composer makes use of the contrast between the rich lower register of the keyboard and the fast-speaking higher register’s shrill cantabile.

from notes by Mahan Esfahani © 2014

La brillante Sonate en mi bémol majeur est l’une des déclarations les plus radieuses et les plus extraverties des années 1750. Son premier mouvement se caractérise par un contour mélodique varié, donnant l’impression d’un poisson qui jaillit hors de l’eau dans la première mesure pour y retomber aussitôt puis bondir et s’égayer d’une manière légèrement différente à chaque nouveau saut. Par contraste avec cette première idée enjouée, un deuxième thème entre à grand renfort de pathos mais cède, là encore, devant un sentiment d’euphorie énoncé avec une flamboyance extrême dans des cascades de notes descendantes. Emanuel Bach montre là, véritablement, de quoi il est capable en tant que maître d’une esthétique nouvelle: il recourt à des accords non préparés, consonants ou dissonants, pour souligner l’élan affectif de ses mélodies. Un compositeur n’a plus à dépendre de la méthode baroque voulant que les harmonies soient comme une confluence de lignes contrapuntiques préparées.

La qualité fuguée du deuxième mouvement rappelle le mouvement central de la sonate précédente en si bémol majeur, où l’idée de la fugue sert aussi de topos, d’étai pour mettre en lumière certains intervalles chargés d’émotion—ici, une septième ascendante suivie d’un demi-ton descendant, dans le thème inaugural. Bach utilise un thème secondaire, en doubles croches continues, pour donner de l’élan harmonique et soulager métriquement le premier thème.

Le splendide troisième mouvement mêle à la virtuosité un impertinent sens du drame, une figure de notes répétées servant à propulser des moments de suspense. Bach utilise le contraste entre le riche registre inférieur du clavier et le perçant cantabile du registre supérieur, au débit rapide.

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

Die brillante Sonate in Es-Dur gehört zu den sonnigsten und extravertiertesten Stücken aus der Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts. Der erste Satz zeichnet sich durch seine unterschiedlichen melodischen Konturen aus und vermittelt im ersten Takt den Eindruck eines aus dem Wasser springenden Fisches, der dann sofort wieder zurückfällt, und bei jedem darauf folgenden Sprung in etwas unterschiedlicher Weise hüpft und umhertollt. Im Gegensatz zu dieser spielerischen ersten Idee setzt ein zweites Thema mit großem Pathos ein, bevor es einer Begeisterung nachgibt, die sich in extravaganter Weise mit absteigenden Tonkaskaden äußert. Hier zeigt Emanuel Bach seine wahre Kunst als Meister einer neuen Ästhetik, wenn er unvorbereitete Akkorde verwendet, ob konsonant oder dissonant, um so den affektiven Impuls seiner Melodien zu untermauern. Ein Komponist war nun nicht mehr gehalten, die barocke Methode zu verwenden, derzufolge die Harmonien als Zusammenfluss vorbereiteter kontrapunktischer Linien entstehen.

Die fugalen Elemente des zweiten Satzes erinnern an den mittleren Satz der vorangehenden Sonate in B-Dur. Ebenso wie in jenem Werk wird auch hier das Konzept der Fuge als Topos oder auch als Requisite benutzt, um bestimmte emotional aufgeladene Intervalle zu betonen; in diesem Falle handelt es sich um eine aufwärts gerichtete Septime im Anfangsthema, auf die ein abfallender Halbton folgt. Mit einem zweiten Thema in Sechzehntelläufen sorgt Bach für harmonischen Schwung und lässt das erste Thema metrisch hervortreten.

Im wundervollen dritten Satz wird Virtuosität mit einer kecken Dramatik kombiniert, indem eine Tonrepetitionsfigur dazu verwendet wird, Spannungsmomente anzutreiben. Der Komponist macht sich den Kontrast zwischen dem klangvollen tiefen Register und dem etwas schrill anmutenden Kantabile des schnell ansprechenden hohen Registers zunutze.

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

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