CPE Bach - Cello Concertos
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Cat No: CDA68112
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 2nd September 2016
WorksCello Concerto in A major, Wq172 H439
Cello Concerto in A minor, Wq170 H432
Cello Concerto in B flat major, Wq171 H436
ArtistsNicolas Altstaedt (cello)
1Cello Concerto In A Minor, H 432 Wq 170 - 1. Allegro Assai
2Cello Concerto In A Minor, H 432 Wq 170 - 2. Andante
3Cello Concerto In A Minor, H 432 Wq 170 - 3. Allegro Assai
4Cello Concerto In B Flat, H 436 Wq 171 - 1. Allegretto
5Cello Concerto In B Flat, H 436 Wq 171 - 2. Adagio
6Cello Concerto In B Flat, H 436 Wq 171 - 3. Allegro Assai
7Cello Concerto In A, H 439 Wq 172 - 1. Allegro
8Cello Concerto In A, H 439 Wq 172 - 2. Largo Con Sordini, Mesto
9Cello Concerto In A, H 439 Wq 172 - 3. Allegro Assai
In his famous treatise on keyboard playing, CPE Bach wrote that ’A musician cannot move unless he too is moved’, and it is abundantly clear that the musicians on this superb new Hyperion disc – cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and the strings of the Arcangelo ensemble directed from the harpsichord by Jonathan Cohen – have responded readily to this injunction. From the scruff-of-the-neck start of the A minor Concerto onwards, these performances grab the listener’s attention with richly-textured yet brilliantly alert playing. And they are helped by an ideally judged balance which favours the soloist yet allows every strand of the fabulously detailed accompaniment to be heard.
By placing the dramatic Sturm und Drang A minor work first, the performers provide us with a great curtain-raiser. Even in the hectically busy opening Allegro assai, there is space for cantabile elements, a fact underlined by Nicolas Altstaedt’s cadenza, which is built on a reference to the famous alto aria ‘Es ist vollbracht’ from JS Bach’s St John Passion. It shouldn’t work, but it does, and splendidly so, demonstrating how CPE’s musical language comfortably accommodates room for introspection. The C major Andante is perfectly paced as a slow dance, while the flickering finale is bold and forthright, with dazzling exchanges between soloist and orchestra and fizzing passagework.
The B flat Concerto is, on the surface, a more urbane work, but the expressiveness of the empfindsamer Stil comes to the surface in the dynamic contrasts of the central D minor Adagio, while the sparks fly in the closing Allegro assai, with more solo fireworks and rapid interplay. Altstaedt and the Arcangelo players bring out all the joy of this music, without ever losing a sense of polished style.
Best of the bunch is the A major Concerto, with its vivacious first movement and exuberant, edgy finale framing a central Largo con sordini of melting tenderness. Marked ‘mesto’ (sad), this movement is one of CPE Bach’s greatest achievements, and it receives a performance of such exquisite inwardness, attentive phrasing and delicate dynamic shading that it almost overshadows the rest of the disc. There are several other fine recordings of these works available, but Altstaedt here comes close to eclipsing them all. All three of these concertos also exist in versions for solo flute and solo keyboard, but these thoroughly idiomatic performances, deeply felt performances are as convincing an argument as any that the cello versions could well be the original ones.
If any disc can persuade you that CPE Bach is far more than a ‘niche’ composer, it is surely this one. Excellent notes from Richard Wigmore set the seal on what will surely be regarded as one of the recordings of the year. Unmissable!
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