Pay attention to Keyboard Music by Bach (No, Not That 1)

The subject of the pianist Marc-André Hamelin’s most recent album is Bach — no, not that a person.

Hamelin — ever inquisitive in discovering 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 variety of keyboard operates by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Sebastian’s next surviving son.

C.P.E. Bach was a prolific composer and an significant pedagogue, a substantial impact on Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. (Hamelin’s new album is a welcome companion to the three volumes of solo Haydn that he established down, with suitable panache, a 10 years and extra back on the Hyperion label.) But if he was far more commonly appreciated than his father well into the 19th century, that has unquestionably not been the scenario far more just lately.

In section, that is since C.P.E.’s category-defying scores problem preconceptions of the record of tunes as it has come to be composed — coming off as stunningly, even unnervingly, experimental. When did the “Baroque” conclude, and the “Classical” commence? What constitutes “early music”? The work of C.P.E. Bach invites us to take into account these inquiries anew, indicates the harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, who has recorded some of this music and wrote the booklet notes for Hamelin’s two-disc established.

Hamelin normally takes us from a juvenile march C.P.E. wrote in advance of 1725 to two of the prolonged, improvisatory fantasies he composed just before his dying, in 1788. Questioned in an interview to select a preferred site 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 favorite clavichord in 1781. In this article are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Even for adventurous pianists like you, the new music of C.P.E. Bach is not particularly prevalent. How did you pick it up?

My spouse, Cathy Fuller, is a single of the hosts at WCRB radio in Boston, and back again in both 2008 or 2009 she performed 1 cut from Mikhail Pletnev’s Deutsche Grammophon recording of C.P.E. Bach. It was a minor sonata in E minor it is three actions, very compact, about seven or 8 minutes. The piece finishes all of a sudden, in the center of a phrase. Bach just decides to stop it on a tonic initially inversion, which was a complete shock to me. You just have to glance at Gesualdo to see how considerably some composers could go even really early in background, but this was truly really a shock.

By coincidence, I experienced just inherited a collection of scores which integrated 6 volumes of new music that C.P.E. published pretty late in everyday living, in the 1780s, for “connoisseurs and amateurs.” So I ran to the tunes, and, confident more than enough, that’s precisely what C.P.E. was asking for — no diminuendo, no rallentando, nothing at all. Obviously I needed to obtain out extra, so I begun looking at from the six volumes, and then I acquired everything I could come across. I became incredibly, quite enthusiastic the thought to report some of these matters was always in the back again of my brain, but it took a though for me to get the wheels in motion.

When I commenced speaking about this project, with no recording day in head, I received a quite nice email from Paul Corneilson of the Packard Humanities Institute. He said, “We have an 18-volume established of the complete keyboard operates in urtext editions would you like just one?” What had been a challenge involving 1 CD became two, for the reason that of the embarrassment of riches I was confronted with.

Higher than every thing else, I wished to underline the richness of Bach’s imagination. I would like to plead with pianists to appear him up it is in no way been less difficult.

So what distinguishes his songs?

The element of angularity, and surprise, and regular delight in the sudden was incredibly considerably a component of Haydn, and he confessed that he owed a fantastic financial debt to C.P.E. Bach. There are some really daring modulations, and what I outlined ahead of is not the only time he just decides to close a piece. In the slow motion of the F slight sonata I recorded, the middle area retains modulating, keeps modulating, keeps modulating — and then instantly cuts off at a really tense minute, pretty international to the property important. Then there’s three extensive beats of silence, and he just decides to go back to the beginning, with no distinct romance concerning the two keys.

I have observed editions which have “corrected” this to make it extra palatable, extra usual. A person that I identified, really, was by Hans von Bülow, and you wouldn’t feel the butchery career he done on C.P.E.’s new music it’s unbelievable. For a though, there was not a lot additional than that offered.

Bach was writing at a time of fantastic technological change, as harpsichords and clavichords have been supplying way to fortepianos, a shift that permitted composers to acquire new signifies of expression. How would you respond to those people who could possibly argue that this songs ought to as a result only be carried out on the instruments of its time, rather than a live performance grand?

I grew up with the modern-day piano, and it affords me all the pleasure, all the success, all the musical results I want. So, as significantly as I take pleasure in occasionally participating in an outdated instrument — and I have, not automatically in general public — the tunes survives currently being performed on the modern day piano. For me, that is plenty of I never want anything else. There are so lots of attainable sonorities on the fashionable piano that, for me, that’s correctly satisfying.

Technological alter is in truth the topic of your favored web site, the middle web page of a rondo that Bach wrote in 1781 as a farewell to his long-serving clavichord.

It is an particularly impacting piece I remember in the course of the recording session I should have been in a hurry to get to it, mainly because it was the initial piece that I place down.

In the actual center of it there is a second: There is a fermata, and then instantly this E big chord. This E important chord is not one thing actually outlandish, because you’re coming out of B slight. But if you depart the suitable amount of money of silence just before it, and if you shell out unique heed to the high quality of the assault of this chord, that is just one of the most magical moments that I’m aware of in all of audio.

I examine that C.P.E. seemingly stated to the gentleman to whom he gave this Silbermann clavichord it is totally not possible even to perform the piece on a clavichord other than this one. (C.P.E. had experienced it for about 35 years, I believe, so it was a extremely unhappy farewell.) But fortuitously I paid out no focus to that. It is exciting to know, and it demonstrates you the electricity of his convictions, but it’s a denial of the choices that are available on something like the present day piano, or any other instrument.

Funnily sufficient, the score regularly notates an ornament that merely cannot be achieved on a contemporary piano: a bebung, which is a sort of vibrato. Do you just have to overlook that, and acknowledge that the piano will make amends in other methods?

I just tried to compensate in other places. What carried me by is the graphic of C.P.E. potentially improvising this piece, and then later on notating it, since it seriously does sound like an improvisation — like actively playing for himself.