Gramophone S.101, 01. February 1988
THE music of C. P. E. Bach is still extraordinarily neglected in the concert hall. Even the gramophone has been remarkably dilatory in exposing this brilliantly original and quirky genius. The early stereo era first centred on the characteristically engaging Double Concerto for harpsichord and fortepiano and some chamber music, and then went on to discover other concertos and the sinfonias. Now, belatedly, the East German company, Delta Music, have embarked on a complete edition on their Capriccio label. Both NA and I welcomed a set of the so-called 'Berlin' Symphonies excellently performed by the appropriately named Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Chamber Orchestra under spirited direction by Hartmut Haenchen (Capriccio/Target CC27 105, 9/87), which I discussed in last November's "Cassette Commentary". So like Oliver Twist I asked for more and Vol. 2 bears out the promise of the first issue. It offers the familiar six 'Hamburg' sinfonias in comparably bracing performances by the same group. Their invention is full of unexpected avant-garde twists and turns of melody, rhythm and modulation, so that even if one has heard them before, the ear is consistently intrigued. The Bach group use modern instruments but the crisp, athletic style of the allegros has a distinct air of 'authenticity' in texture and sharpness of focus, yet slow movements have unashamed expressive feeling. On tape the sound is very bright on Side I and needs a little control, but Side 2 is smoother; nevertheless, overall the reproduction makes a stimulating effect (CC27 145).