Bach: Fantasias

Album cover art for upc 5028421965673
Catalog: BRI96567

Häkkinen, Aapo

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was widely known for his passionate, incomparable improvisations on the clavichord, most characteristically in the form of free fantasia. His compositions were unique in style, full of contrasts, and universally admired by several generations; the Vienna Classicists, even Beethoven and Schubert, considered him their musical father. Declamatory, improvisatory style is of course the epitaph of all 18th-century music – exemplified in Johann Sebastian Bach's Chromatic Fantasia BWV903, with its central recitative and broken chords audaciously passing through distant harmonies. Johann Nikolaus Forkel, author of the first Bach biography and part of C.P.E. Bach’s literary circles, transmitted a refined version in his manuscript (P 212) and subsequent edition that may derive from a revised original version once in possession of the Bach sons. C.P.E. Bach’s Fantasia in C minor (published in 1753) bears distinct similarities to his father’s Fantasia chromatica, and it has been suggested that it may in fact have been a tombeau to the elder Bach. The deep personal nature and connection between the two works is explicit. For Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and the ‘Bachists’, the most expressive and intimate compositions were reserved for the clavichord. It was in the clavichord that one might ‘find the soundboard of your heart. … Have no regrets when alone under the moonlight you improvise, or refresh your soul on a summer night, or when you celebrate a spring evening; ah! then pine not for the strident harpsichord. See, your clavichord breathes as gently as your heart.’ (Ch.F.D. Schubart: Musikalische Rhapsodien III, 1786) Charles Burney, who visited C.P.E. Bach in Hamburg in 1772, described the composer improvising at his legendary clavichord, built by Gottfried Silbermann: ‘He grew so animated and possessed that he not only played but looked like one inspired. His eyes were fixed, his lower lip fell, and drops of effervescence distilled from his countenance.’ The original 18th-century instruments heard on this recording – from Regensburg, Stockholm and Vienna – demonstrate possibilities the like of which would have been known to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in Berlin and Hamburg and ultimately derive from the Saxon school of G. Silbermann.

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