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Friday, November 20, 2020

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Württemberg Sonatas, Wq. 49 (Mahan Esfahani)


Information

Composer: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
  • (01) Sonata in A minor, H 30
  • (04) Sonata in A flat major, H 31
  • (07) Sonata in E minor, H 33
  • (10) Sonata in B flat major, H 32
  • (13) Sonata in E flat major, H 34
  • (16) Sonata in B minor, H 36

Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord
Date: 2013
Label: Hyperion

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Review

Mahan Esfahani’s debut recital recording commemorates the tercentenary of Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach (1714 88), whose collection of six sonatas published in 1744 was dedicated to Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg (later the Stuttgart employer of Jommelli), and composed while he was employed at the court of Frederick II of Prussia (who had not yet won his epithet as ‘the Great’). Thus these sonatas date from before JS Bach’s visit to his son in Berlin that spawned The Musical Offering (1747), and their stylistic peculiarity reconfirms the inadequacy of clumsy attempts to categorise mid-18th-century composers who straddled the so-called ‘late Baroque’ and ‘early Classical’ periods.

Esfahani’s booklet-note provides the listener with a convivial commentary in which he draws attention to CPE Bach’s ‘Janus-like musical personality’ – nowhere more apparent than in the juxtaposition of recitative-like introduction, an intricate Adagio non molto and an extrovertly contrapuntal conclusion in the final sonata (H36). It is apt that Esfahani plays on a copy of surviving instruments by the Berlin court instrument-builder Michael Mietke (from whom JS Bach bought a two-manual harpsichord for the Cöthen court in 1719). There is an unpredictable lute stop used briefly in the Andante of H30, a gentle exploitation of dissonances throughout the Adagio and Vivace of H33, and Haydnesque playfulness in the finale of H32. 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.

-- David Vickers, Gramophone


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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (8 March 1714 – 14 December 1788) was a German Classical period musician and composer, the fifth child of Johann Sebastian Bach. C. P. E. Bach was an influential composer working at a time of transition between his father's Baroque style and the Classical style that followed it. Among his most popular and frequently recorded works are his symphonies, as well as many keyboard concertos and sonatas. Bach was also an influential pedagogue, writing the ever influential “Essay on the true art of playing keyboard instruments ” which would be studied by Haydn and Beethoven, among others.

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Mahan Esfahani (born 1984 in Tehran) is an Iranian-American harpsichordist. He studied with George Houle at Stanford University, Peter Watchorn in Boston, and Zuzana Růžičková in Czechia. Esfahani made his Wigmore Hall debut as well as debut at The Proms in 2009. A leading harpsichordist, Esfahani's programming and work in commissioning new compositions has drawn the attention of critics and audiences across Europe, Asia, and North America. His recording of C.P.E. Bach's Wurttemberg Sonatas for Hyperion won him a Gramophone Award and the BBC Music Magazine Award's 'Best Newcomer'.

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