CPE Bach: Complete works for keyboard & violin

CPE Bach: Complete works for keyboard & violin
Duo Belder Kimura
Resonus RES10192. 2CDs 69’32+62.51

This CD includes all of CPE Bach’s pieces for violin and keyboard, with seven Sonatas, a Fantasia, Sinfonia and Ariosa with variations (Wq. 71-80). For the first few seconds of listening to this recording, I wondered if it was playing at the correct speed, so sparkily light and delicate was the brisk opening with its precisely articulated rapid-fire trills from both violin and harpsichord. But this was the musical language of the young CPE Bach heard in the opening of his Sonata in C Wq.73, one of a group of three Sonatas composed in 1731 when Bach was just 17 and a student at the Leipzig Thomasschule. He later revised them 15 years later in Berlin, and it is not clear to what extent we are hearing the young or more mature Bach. But the combination of his father’s influence and the move away from the style of ‘Old Bach’ that was to dominate CPE Bach’s compositional style is clear. The second group of Sonatas date from 1763 (Wq. 75-78), with the harpsichord taking on a stronger role. The final two pieces (the Arioso and Fantasia) date from the 1780s, and the keyboard (a fortepiano after Walter, 1795) dominates the texture. The other pieces use a harpsichord after Blanchet (1730); the violin an original from the Gagliano school (c1730). 

The album booklet (accessible here) includes a well-written essay by Warwick Cole setting out the history of the pieces, with a detailed analysis of one of them. Although the essay follows the chronological order, for some reason the order of the two CDs does not. In fact, none of the tracks follows the Wq number sequence – the order being Wq. 73, 75, 74, 76, 80 / 77, 72, 79, 78, 71. This is irritating and, because of the spread over two CDs, is not solvable by creating your own playlist. As the pieces cover most of CPE Bach’s life, reflecting the stylistic development would have helped to both student and casual listener. That said, the recorded sound is excellent. Recorded in a Yorkshire church, the acoustic is chamber-like, rather than concert hall – or, indeed, church.

Duo Belder Kimura is a recently formed duo based in Amsterdam. I have reviewed violinist Rie Kimura’s recordings on Resonus several times but keyboard player Pieter-Jan Belder is a new name for me. The playing is well coordinated, precise and clear, although a few violin intonation issues do raise an eyebrow.  A video of the recording of the B minor Sonata, Wq.76 is below.

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