Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach wrote this set of six keyboard concertos Wq43 once he had been released from the constricting service to Frederick the Great of Prussia. He moved from Potsdam to Hamburg, and began composing there with new-found freedom. Published in 1772, these concertos are among the first-fruits of such liberated imagination.
CPE designated them as ‘six easy harpsichord concertos’, with the same ‘Liebhaber’ in mind as the cultivated amateur audience for some of his keyboard sonatas. Nonetheless, the solo parts of these works will test the mettle of any aspiring or proven virtuoso. Their greatest originality, though, lies in their form. Each concerto is written cyclically, or continuously, meaning that one movement leads directly into the next. Even the cadenzas are fully written out, anticipating in this regard Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto of two generations later.
While tautly disciplined in this way, the concertos are also full of CPE’s flights of fancy: nowhere more so than the No.4, in which the initial Allegro suddenly veers into an Adagio episode, and just as abruptly transforms into a Minuet. A cadenza unites the themes of all three movements or episodes before a final reprise of the Allegro: unprecedented, even for CPE.
The panoply of CPE’s instrumentation is necessarily compressed by this transcription of the concertos for two harpsichords, but the vitality of dialogue is fully preserved. It was made (or at least copied) by Johann Gottlieb Haußstädler, a copyist working for Peter August, the organist for the Elector of Saxony. The two men may have collaborated on the arrangement; at any rate, it has been unknown until now, and comes to life in the hands of a pair of Italian musicians with a serious pedigree in recording music of this period for Brilliant Classics.
- Transcription has always been a widespread musical practice, following the desire to arrange pieces originally written for a larger instrumental ensemble for an instrument like the organ or harpsichord or, later, the piano. This new recording presents the transcriptions for two solo harpsichords of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Concertos for Harpsichord and Orchestra Wq43, published by the author in Hamburg in 1772 at his own expense. The transcriber however was not the composer himself, but Johann Gottlieb Haußstädler, active as a copyist at the court in Dresden.
- The Harpsichord Concertos Wq43 firmly established Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the most famous son of Johann Sebastian, as a highly original innovator of the concerto genre, introducing daring features like abrupt transitions, virtuoso cadenzas and an overall dramatic language, typical of the so called “Sturm und Drang” movement of the late 18th century, of which he was the leading exponent.
- Played by two of Italy’s foremost keyboard players, Claudio Astronio and Stefano Molardi. Claudio Astronio, conductor, organist, harpsichordist, musicologist, is an amazing artist with an open mind, pioneer in Early Music with a fondness of pop and jazz as well. “Astronio’s ability to convey the character and emotional dynamic of a vocal line is incredibly beautiful, sensitive and deeply touching” wrote Fanfare, America’s classical magazine. Stefano Molardi is a “renaissance man”, organist, harpsichordist, scholar, historian and writer. He recorded extensively: the complete organ works by J.S. Bach, organ works by Bach family members, complete organ works by Kuhnau and other repertoire. His playing is clear, crisp, free and rhythmically vibrant. His recordings received 5 star reviews in the international classical magazines.