The topic of the pianist Marc-André Hamelin’s newest album is Bach — no, not that one.
Hamelin — ever inquisitive in exploring the outer reaches of the repertoire, with current releases of music by Sigismond Thalberg, Samuil Feinberg and Erno Dohnanyi — has now turned to the extraordinary vary of keyboard works by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Sebastian’s second surviving son.
C.P.E. Bach was a prolific composer and an necessary pedagogue, a major influence on Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. (Hamelin’s new album is a welcome companion to the three volumes of solo Haydn that he set down, with supreme panache, a decade and extra in the past on the Hyperion label.) But when he was extra broadly appreciated than his father effectively into the nineteenth century, that has definitely not been the case extra not too long ago.
Partly, that’s as a result of C.P.E.’s category-defying scores problem preconceptions of the historical past of music because it has come to be written — coming off as stunningly, even unnervingly, experimental. When did the “Baroque” finish, and the “Classical” start? What constitutes “early music”? The work of C.P.E. Bach invitations us to take into account these questions anew, suggests the harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, who has recorded a few of this music and wrote the booklet notes for Hamelin’s two-disc set.
Hamelin takes us from a juvenile march C.P.E. wrote earlier than 1725 to two of the prolonged, improvisatory fantasies he composed simply earlier than his loss of life, in 1788. Requested in an interview to choose a favourite web page from the scores, Hamelin selected the “Abschied von meinem Silbermannischen Claviere, in einem Rondo” (“Farewell to My Silbermannischen Clavier, in a Rondo”), a haunting tribute to a favourite clavichord in 1781. Listed below are edited excerpts from the dialog.
Even for adventurous pianists like your self, the music of C.P.E. Bach isn’t precisely widespread. How did you choose it up?
My spouse, Cathy Fuller, is likely one of the hosts at WCRB radio in Boston, and again in both 2008 or 2009 she performed one lower from Mikhail Pletnev’s Deutsche Grammophon recording of C.P.E. Bach. It was just a little sonata in E minor; it’s three actions, very compact, about seven or eight minutes. The piece ends suddenly, in the course of a phrase. Bach simply decides to finish it on a tonic first inversion, which was a complete shock to me. You simply have to have a look at Gesualdo to see how far some composers may go even very early in historical past, however this was actually fairly a shock.
By coincidence, I had simply inherited a group of scores which included six volumes of music that C.P.E. revealed very late in life, within the 1780s, for “connoisseurs and amateurs.” So I ran to the music, and, positive sufficient, that’s precisely what C.P.E. was asking for — no diminuendo, no rallentando, nothing. Naturally I needed to discover out extra, so I began studying from the six volumes, after which I purchased every thing I may discover. I grew to become very, very enthusiastic; the thought to document a few of these issues was all the time at the back of my thoughts, however it took some time for me to get the wheels in movement.
Once I began speaking about this venture, with no recording date in thoughts, I bought a really good electronic mail from Paul Corneilson of the Packard Humanities Institute. He mentioned, “Now we have an 18-volume set of the complete keyboard works in urtext editions; would you want one?” What had been a venture involving one CD grew to become two, due to the embarrassment of riches I used to be confronted with.
Above every thing else, I needed to underline the richness of Bach’s creativeness. I would really like to plead with pianists to look him up; it’s by no means been simpler.
So what distinguishes his music?
The ingredient of angularity, and shock, and fixed delight within the sudden was very a lot part of Haydn, and he confessed that he owed an excellent debt to C.P.E. Bach. There are some extraordinarily daring modulations, and what I discussed earlier than isn’t the one time he simply decides to finish a chunk. Within the gradual motion of the F minor sonata I recorded, the center part retains modulating, retains modulating, retains modulating — after which abruptly cuts off at a really tense second, very overseas to the house key. Then there’s three lengthy beats of silence, and he simply decides to return to the start, with no clear relationship between the 2 keys.
I’ve seen editions which have “corrected” this to make it extra palatable, extra regular. One which I discovered, really, was by Hans von Bülow, and also you wouldn’t consider the butchery job he carried out on C.P.E.’s music; it’s unbelievable. For some time, there wasn’t rather more than that accessible.
Bach was writing at a time of nice technological change, as harpsichords and clavichords had been giving means to fortepianos, a shift that allowed composers to develop new technique of expression. How would you reply to those that may argue that this music ought to subsequently solely be carried out on the devices of its time, fairly than a live performance grand?
I grew up with the trendy piano, and it affords me all of the pleasure, all of the success, all of the musical outcomes I need. So, as a lot as I respect typically enjoying an outdated instrument — and I’ve, not essentially in public — the music survives being performed on the trendy piano. For me, that’s sufficient; I don’t want anything. There are such a lot of attainable sonorities on the trendy piano that, for me, that’s completely fulfilling.
Technological change is in reality the topic of your favourite web page, the center web page of a rondo that Bach wrote in 1781 as a farewell to his long-serving clavichord.
It’s an especially affecting piece; I keep in mind in the course of the recording session I will need to have been in a rush to get to it, as a result of it was the primary piece that I put down.
Within the actual center of it there’s a second: There’s a fermata, after which abruptly this E main chord. This E main chord isn’t one thing actually outlandish, since you’re popping out of B minor. However should you depart the correct quantity of silence earlier than it, and should you pay explicit heed to the standard of the assault of this chord, that’s probably the most magical moments that I’m conscious of in all of music.
I learn that C.P.E. apparently mentioned to the gentleman to whom he gave this Silbermann clavichord it’s completely inconceivable even to play the piece on a clavichord aside from this one. (C.P.E. had had it for round 35 years, I feel, so it was a really unhappy farewell.) However luckily I paid no consideration to that. It’s attention-grabbing to know, and it exhibits you the facility of his convictions, however it’s a denial of the probabilities which are obtainable on one thing like the trendy piano, or every other instrument.
Funnily sufficient, the rating repeatedly notates an decoration that merely can’t be achieved on a contemporary piano: a bebung, which is a type of vibrato. Do you simply have to ignore that, and settle for that the piano will make amends in different methods?
I simply tried to compensate elsewhere. What carried me via is the picture of C.P.E. presumably improvising this piece, after which later notating it, as a result of it actually does sound like an improvisation — like enjoying for himself.
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