CPE BACH Organ Sonatas
If one needed a musical pick-me-up, nothing better could refresh a jaded ear than this sparkling, generously filled disc of the delightful sonatas that Emanuel Bach composed for Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia, Frederick the Great’s sister, in around 1755. The five sonatas in the Wq70 collection are supplemented here by the Sonata in A, Wq65/32, originally composed in 1758 and later revised.
Although in later years Bach professed to being an indifferent organist, and composed far less for the instrument than his father, his surviving corpus of organ music is as well constructed, constantly refreshed (and refreshing) and elegant as anything else he wrote. Each sonata is cast in three movements, fast slow fast, and is written for manuals only – no pedals, since their dedicatee couldn’t play them! Bach’s fluid style mixes the athleticism of the galant with occasional passages of High Baroque two-part counterpoint. Melodic decoration abounds, alternating with arpeggiated arabesques. By way of contrast, slow movements veer towards the melancholic, laden with appoggiaturas, generally in a clean three-part texture. Occasionally one is reminded of the slow movements in the voluntaries of Bach’s almost exact English contemporary John Stanley: for example, the wistful Adagio e mesto in the Sonata in D, Wq70/5. Handel also springs to mind in the chunky opening Allegro of the Sonata in F, Wq70/3.
Working from the new CPE Bach Critical Edition, Iain Quinn thoroughly explores the possibilities of the 28 manual ranks of the two-manual Paul Fritts instrument of the Theological Seminary in Princeton. His light, clean touch coupled with an energetic panache will surely win over many new adherents to this little-known repertory.