CPE Bach: Clavierstucke
ECM New Series 2112. 67’30
Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov concentres his performances and recordings on new music and music from the Baroque era performed on period instruments. This CD presents CPE Bach’s fantasies, sonatas and rondos played on the little-known tangent piano, usually referred to in German-speaking countries as the Pantaleon, Spattisches Klavier or Tangentenflügel. It enjoyed a brief moment of glory in the 18th century as a gap between the harpsichord and clavichord and the forthcoming fortepiano. Rather like the clavichord, its strings are struck from underneath by wood or metal tangents. Unlike the clavichord, where the note continues to sound while the tangent is in contact with the string, the tangent piano has an escarpment action similar to that of a fortepiano which allows the string to freely vibrate. It has a similar extent and control of expressiveness to the clavichord but is capable of much greater volume and intensity. It makes a gloriously twangy sound. There are a few original instruments still in existence, but this recording uses a modern replica, by Chris Maene of Belgium, of a 1794 Späth and Schmahl tangent piano from Regensburg.
CPE Bach published six collections of sonatas, rondos and fantasies between 1779 and 1787 labelling them as for “connoisseurs and dilettantes”. The larger pieces are taken from these collections, while the miniatures are from the 1765 Clavierstücke verschiedener Art and the 1770 Musikalisches Vielerley. The variety of musical texture is enormous, ranging from majestically full-blooded to tiny little essays. Track 10, for example, is a delightful minute-long Fantasie in B whose simple arpeggio passages echo on and on. The very recognisable Solfeggio C minor is naturally included. Nine of the 15 pieces last for less than a minute, the two longest being the grand opening and closing Fantasies (Wq 67 & Wq 59/6), bot paired with three-movement Sonatas.
The playing is excellent, with Alexei Lubimov exploring the range of colours and texture of the tangent piano, and the extraordinary, if occasionally anarchic inventiveness of CPE Bach.