CPE Bach Violin Sonatas – Transparent and lively masterworks

This reissue from 2005 features four violin and piano sonatas by Carl Philipp Emanual Bach. He wrote three while serving at the court of Frederick the Great. The other was an early work, miscredited to his father.

CPE Bach composed the three 1763 sonatas while employed by King Frederick II, They reflect the atmosphere of Frederick the Great’s cosmopolitan court. Frederick was a talented amateur musician, greatly interested in French culture.

Bach’s sonatas have the lightness of the French style galante. Violin and piano nimbly trade melodic motifs, keeping the texture light. Amandine Beyer and Edna Stern play in simpatico. Phrasing and infections remain consistent as the music moves from one instrument to the other.

It’s easy to hear how the 1738 Sonata in G major, H.545 (BWV 1031) could be attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach rather than his son. CPE wrote it when he was 20, and still developing his own voice. The textures are thick, and there’s a lot of baroque busy-ness going on — especially with the keyboard.

But after hearing the other sonatas, it’s also easier to hear CPE’s traits in this music, too.

I’ve stated before I don’t care for the sound of the early fortepiano. But I have no complaints about the sound of it in this recording. The instrument does sounds a little blocky compared to a modern piano. But the action is quiet, and the keyboard seems very responsive to Stern’s touch.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Sonatas for Violin and Fortepiano, WQ 76-78; H.545 (formerly BWV 1031)
Amadine Beyer, violin; Edna Stern, piano
Alpha 329

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