Im Dienste des Königs / The King’s Men

Jermaine Sprosse harpsichord & fortepiano
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C. P. E. Bach: Sonatas in A Wq55/4 and c Wq65/31, 12 Variationen über die Folie d’Espagne Wq118/9
Carl Fasch: Sonata in F
Nichelmann: Sonata VI in F

The King referred to in the title is Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia, with this disc featuring music by three composers who worked at his court: C. P. E. Bach, Christoph Nichelmann and Carl F. C. Fasch. It is a disc of two halves, with the extended Sonata in A (Wq 55/4) and the Folia Variations by C. P. E. Bach, as well as Nichelmann’s Sonata VI, played on a Ruckers copy (with ravalement) by Titus Crijnen, while a second Bach Sonata in C minor (Wq 65/31) and an F major Sonata by Fasch are played on a copy of a Stein Fortepiano by Bernhard Fleig. As a harpsichordist Sprosse is busy, rather too fast and lacking in poise. His playing can be exciting, but without any great subtlety in the two sonatas, even in the slower movements. The Folia, however, is less rushed and more nuanced. On the fortepiano, on the other hand, Sprosse is more measured and plays with more texture and contrast. There is also more resonance on the harpsichord tracks than on those with fortepiano, which tends to compound the busyness of the former. Both Nichelmann’s and Fasch’s sonatas get their first recorded performances here: they are diverting pieces in the pre-Classical style, not indulging over much in Empfindsamkeit, though the Fasch has some nice quirky moments in its finale. These are sparky performances of interesting music, with lots of well-judged ornamentation on repeats, and are certainly worth listening to.

Noel O’Regan