CPE BACH Cello Concertos. Symphony (Queyras)
There can’t be many ensembles around as stylistically fleet-footed as Hamburg’s Ensemble Resonanz. I’m still thinking fondly back to their Haas, Bartók and Berg programme on the Elbphilharmonie’s opening weekend; and now here they are playing historically informed CPE Bach with equal musical sensitivity and intellectual panache, joined by their artist-in-residence Riccardo Minasi (himself a period-performance chameleon) and their other regular collaborator, Jean-Guihen Queyras. While this may be their first disc on Harmonia Mundi with Minasi, they’ve already collaborated with him to record two sets of CPE Bach symphonies for Es Dur. So when you top off this well-oiled CPE Bach outfit with one of today’s finest and most thoughtful period-performance cellists, it’s no wonder the results are magnificently fine.
Toolkit points first, and while Ensemble Resonanz’s strings do ‘do’ gut, for this recording they’ve gone for the more brilliant-toned metal option. Interestingly Queyras has too, and the detailed attention he’s paid to colouring every note puts paid to any notion that you need gut strings to present the full gamut of such subtleties.
The tempos are briskly flowing but never feel hurried; just enough to allow the dynamic swells applied to the opening of the A minor Concerto (Wq170) to feel like smooth waves; also to allow Queyras’s semiquavers in the same movement to come over as crisp flutters and his triplet quaver figures to melt seamlessly together.
As you might expect from Queyras, he’s written his own cadenzas. He’s also been true to form with their length, because his A minor first-movement one is a luxurious two minutes; which incidentally is the exact-same length of his Haydn C major Concerto first-movement cadenza with Freiburg Baroque (10/04). Plus, while it’s period-idiomatic for the most part, right near its start there’s an attention-grabbing rising arpeggio sequence up into his upper harmonics that sounds subtly but deliciously 21st-century.
Splitting up the A minor and A major (Wq172) concertos, the ensemble and Minasi have committed another of Bach’s symphonies to disc, this time an effervescent reading of his Symphony in G, Wq173: a masterfully crafted work written a decade earlier than the concertos, and possibly his first attempt at the fledgling string symphony genre.
So there are plenty of reasons to enjoy this. In fact, while I loved the punch and panache of Nicolas Altstaedt’s recent recording for Hyperion of all three of the concertos, the sheer multicoloured class on display here – and indeed its symphonic palette-cleanser – has nudged it ahead in my personal rankings.