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CD Review

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

MD&G 3411592

Clavier Works

  • 12 Polonaises, F. 12
  • Fantasia in D minor, F. 19
  • Sonata in E Major, F. 5
Siegbert Rampe, harpsichord & tangent piano
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG3411592-2 68m DDD
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Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784) was J.S. Bach's eldest son and the picture that has come down to us over the years is widely contradictory ranging from the idealized early Romantic to the disgraced villain who squandered his parental heritage. Even his contemporaries seem to disagree. Some described him as a sullen man with a miserly attitude for his art while others hailed him as one of the finest organists of the day.

As a composer he strived to be original and different from his father and brothers and consequently he fell into a pedantic futility which hampered his artistic achievements. What is certain is that his fame as an improviser, probably the best in his time apart from Mozart, and this natural gift earned him a high reputation and the power to enchant the hearts of all with his organ playing.

Most of his compositions have unfortunately been lost and sadly the surviving number is extremely low, but from what has been saved, one can confirm that this composer was no amateur. His clavier pieces are highly sophisticated and technically they match those of his father and Domenico Scarlatti. Extreme speed, stretches of a tenth, and large leaps are commonplace, but melody is never sacrificed and his clavier output is consistently attractive to listen to.

The works on this disc include some of his best known creations for the instrument, and in Siegbert Rampe's vertiginous hands, their virtuosic sheen and technical mastery are brought out with even greater brilliance. Entertaining stuff, played with high precision and great sensitivity.

Copyright © 2010, Gerald Fenech

Trumpet