While many of us are familiar with the works of Johann Sebastian Bach to some extent, the music of his sons – several of whom became noteworthy composers in their own rights – is less widely known, and still less widely recognized as approaching their father’s genius. Marc-André Hamelin’s recent release of sonatas and rondos by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach takes an important step toward acquainting listeners with a composer who absolutely should be taken seriously.
Hamelin’s project, a double album of piano music by C.P.E. Bach, glitters with prowess and skill, as expected from this member of the Order of Canada and recipient of numerous awards in his musical career. Apart from being a showcase for his prodigious talents, this album also demonstrates how firmly Bach’s music fits into the milieu of the classical era – definitely distinct from his father’s Baroque masterpieces, but still occasionally tipping its hat to those musical roots.
Those who studied piano for a few years will likely be familiar with Bach’s Solfeggio in c minor – but, like me, you likely didn’t play it at the tempo that Hamelin can, and does, dare to take it! (You can hear an excerpt of his rendition here.) The other works on the album will likely be less familiar but Hamelin makes a compelling case that they should be (and I have a date with my own piano later for learning some of these pieces myself).
Looking over Hamelin’s previous discography, his career has often taken the road less traveled, rather than exploring the usual familiar repertoire; hopefully his choice to shine a light on C.P.E. Bach’s music leads others to become more familiar with it.
Photo credit: Sim Cannety-Clarke