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HIPster Wars - News from the Bach Front - Communiqué 49
on 30 December 2012
Whenever I read that CPE Bach should be ranked with his Old Man - and similar claims are made of `human footnotes' such as Bononcini and Cavalli - I wonder whether Keith Richards is back in charge of the water supply with something more than fluoridation on the agenda.
Being 18th Century-centric as I am, I've listened to copious amounts of CPE over the years. To my mind, he represents the triumph of intelligence over talent where the latter is very much in the mix. In terms of their impact upon the listener, all of the great composers share the same motto as the Olympics: Citius, Altius, Fortius - Faster, Higher, Stronger. CPE's powers are fitful. He commands attention even if so little of it resonates as afterglow. Take this recital: other than a general impression of inventiveness, I am hard pressed to remember a single melody upon its closure. Is it really divisible into six sonatas and a few rondos? Which ones are more mature, chronology-wise? I can't tell. The twenty two tracks, sad to say, blend into one another like a procession of Klavierstücke. There are moments of beauty and consolation (such as 4'15ff in the slow movement of the F Sharp Minor) and cleverness (the finale of WQ 62/19). When it comes, however, to a work such as the Rondo in D Minor which Pletnev plays so masterfully, it is almost energy in search of a melody. Much the same could be said of the first movement of WQ 62/19 which borders dangerously on note-spinning.
All power to the Russian virtuoso, his Steinway and Deutsche Grammophon for championing this fine music to the imprecations of the Period Practice Taliban; the endeavour is so much more meritorious than recording another version of Chopin's mazurkas. It won't bring the rain but it will certainly make you think.