C P E Bach Harpsichord & Fortepiano Works
In her fine Gramophone Award-winning debut disc (of Pieces de clavecin by Jacquet de la Guerre), Carole Cerasi brought a sparkling immediacy and character to music usually the esoteric domain of a minority. Now, she turns her attention to six sonatas by C P E Bach in another recital of natural flair and discernment. The achievement is perhaps all the more striking in that this Bach son is an especially tricky customer: his light, unpredictable sensibilities depend on a strong undercurrent of logical reference, mainly a rhythmic and contrapuntal presence inherited from his father. Strong artistic instincts are the critical adhesive. Cerasi has no shortage of these and shows an easy command of the subtlety and variety in these relatively little-known sonatas (none of which appears in Bach’s ‘popular’ keyboard collections), choosing to split them between a vibrant double-manual harpsichord by Bruce Kennedy (after an early 18th-century German instrument) and a Jean Bascou fortepiano in a late 18th-century vein.
The division works well, given the spread of styles. Conventions range from flamboyant concerto figuration in the early pieces, which Cerasi executes with nonchalant facility, via the purposely mannered and quizzical B flat work (flawed only by an unfortunate edit where the last chord of the piece is cut short) to a wonderful ‘galant’ baroque-style suite, complete with delectable minuets. Cerasi brings a colourful theatricality to the incandescent allegro assai of the aforementioned B flat work, and a genuine alertness to the outlandish excursions of the C major Sonata, conveyed with considerable intensity by the fortepiano, with all its capability for dynamics.
More admirable still is the fluid, unalloyed lyricism of the slower movements, such as the adagio of the late G major work where Cerasi never yields to disingenuous quirkiness. Consequently, we get the best possible chance of understanding Bach’s spontaneous compositional whims.
One could argue that after such a prominent harpsichord sound, the fortepiano sonatas are slightly too recessed, but this is a small gripe in an otherwise highly enjoyable recital from this exciting young keyboardist.'