Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Alpha Classics Alpha 759

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I have been impressed by Nevermind’s performances before, and from the perspective purely of critiquing the playing, there is nothing here to fault – these are four outstanding musicians in brilliant form and they engage with Bach’s whimsy and caprice 100%.

When then am I not bedecking them with garlands of yet more appreciation? Well, for a start, if the briefest of brief booklet notes tell us that there is no indication of a stringed bass instrument, and that this is later music when Bach had most probably moved on to a piano-like instrument of some sort, why did Nevermind choose to play the keyboard part on harpsichord? And, if I pick up a CD in a record shop and all the cover says is “Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach”, what am I to imagine might it be? One the first point, it’s as if they are coming at the music as a bunch of baroque musicians for whom the classical period has not yet arrived; some of the added ornamentation (for some of us, Bach’s own is quite enough!) don’t work for this old fuddy-duddy of a reviewer. If the three quartets are not enough to fill the disc, I’d rather hear more authentic music rather than some arrangements. And, yes, damn it, I’d like to hear a period piano!

And for the benefit of future programme note writers, the presence of the viola in such a prominent role is NOT unusual here; Madame Levy (who commissioned the work from Bach) also commissioned viola duets from his brother Wilhelm Friedemann. In the Berlin of Janitsch and Graun, there was no shortage of music for viola…

Brian Clark

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