Bach & Sons 2

Zürcher Kammerorchester, Sebastian Knauer
Berlin Classics 0300764BC
BWV1044, 1055, 1056, J. C. Bach: Concerto in f; C. P. E. Bach: Concerto in G

This is a second CD produced by the pianist, Sebastian Knauer, of keyboard concertos by Johann Sebastian coupled with two by his sons to link the ‘old’ Bach to the coming age.

You may think it curious, but it isn’t the modern Steinway grand that I have any problems with: this is beautifully and lightly played by Knauer, who quotes Roger Norrington’s dictum ‘Period performance is in the mind, and not in the hardware’, and provides a powerful advocacy of that in these performances. It is more with the overall style including the tuning of the string band, and in particular the way they shape and play through their lines especially in the violins. I did not imagine that the effect in one of my favourite Klavier concertos, the A major BWV1055, would be so striking. It is partly that 21st-century approaches to phrasing, to long lines, to sustaining or even growing phrases that are in themselves less significant is such a contrast to the shorter bow strokes and floating lines we are used to in period instrument ensembles.

Their approach seems to me to pay off splendidly, especially in the Johann Christian F minor concerto with its pre-Sturm und Drang drive, and in the C. P. E. Bach G major concerto with its lyrical, classical lines, but to be essentially at odds with the different sort of partnership between strings and keyboard (and the flute and violin in BWV 1044) demanded in the concertos by J. S. B., where a more interlocked partnership is surely required.

So while I enjoyed Knauer’s musicianship, it was Bach’s sons whose music fares best in this collection.

David Stancliffe