CPE BACH Abschied (Vittorio Forte)
For his new Odradek recording, the Calabrian pianist Vittorio Forte has chosen a programme of fantasies, rondos and variations written in Hamburg during the last decade of Emanuel Bach’s life. The mercurial moods of the master of Empfindsamkeit, who is also arguably among the earliest important composers for the piano, are not easily rendered on the modern Steinway. Forte’s heartfelt and resourceful playing succeeds admirably.
The E minor Rondo, Farewell to my Silbermann Clavichord, was written when Bach relinquished his favourite clavichord to his pupil Ewald von Grotthuss in 1781. Published as recently as 1986, the Rondo’s wistful sadness will doubtless touch the heart of any keyboard player whose instrument has become a close confidante through the years. Another gem, first published in 1938, is the La folia Variations from 1778. Drawing on Bach’s deep reservoir of inventive figuration, this audaciously original treatment of La folia is a late 18th-century tour de force. Without forcing or overstatement, Forte’s interpretation glows with imagination and virtuosity.
The F sharp minor Fantasia, at 11 minutes the longest piece on the disc, seems to touch on all the styles that Bach inherited or anticipated in a seamless tapestry. Listening to Forte’s poetic reading, it is easy to understand both why Bach was so admired by Haydn and how he remained a strong influence on Beethoven.
Adventurous listeners eager for a detour from the beaten path, not to mention connoisseurs of thoughtful piano-playing of cultivated sensitivity, won’t want to miss this.