C. P. E. Bach: Lieder

Mariví Blasco soprano, Yago Mahúgo fortepiano, Impetus Madrid Baroque Ensemble
Brilliant Classics 95462

This is certainly an interesting collection of a repertoire that was wholly unknown to me. This CD offers a selection of 26 of C. P. E. Bach’s more than 180 Lieder, and the liner notes include interesting comments on the origins and development of the genre. I find that a little goes a long way.

There is some reference to an older style, like the almost Handelian fugato  in the opening of Trost der Erlösung  (track 4), but most pre-figure an almost Mozartian sense of tuneful line as in Weihnachtslied  (8). In Gott, der Ernährer der Menschen  (12) there are quotations from the chorale Vater Unser, that introduce a more churchy element to these largely drawing-room meditations.

In the second half of the disc, selected songs are performed – following the composer’s suggestion – without the singer! The texts of the sung pieces are given in German and English, but only the titles of the rest. Are these mood pieces the original ‘Songs without Words’? They underline the feature I find most trying about these Lieder, which is that the singer’s line is almost always doubled by the fortepiano. Not only does this raise questions of tuning: the keyboard is tuned in Young at A=430, but occasionally the singer and the keyboard are not entirely on it, and it also makes ornamentation difficult.

Blasco’s clean voice has some of the brittle clarity of the fortepiano, chosen for the earlier songs published in 1758 as well as the later that date from the early 1780s. Her diction fulfils the expectations of such Lieder collections – that the lyrics of such poets should be better known. The fortepiano playing is clean, and the CD has a gathering around a cottage piano on a Sunday evening feel about it. Perhaps I am just too out of sympathy with the theology as well as the compositional style to give this a fair review, but, in spite of perfectly good performances, it doesn’t do much for me.

David Stancliffe