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If the tendency of the music industry (as well as of audiences) is to identify a young artist with a certain area of repertoire, Danny Driver seems happy to push against it. This is the second instalment of his series of CPE Bach keyboard sonatas, but it raises an eyebrow after recital discs of York Bowen, Balakirev and Benjamin Dale.

In his 300 or so keyboard works, of which around half are sonatas, CPE Bach moved away from the dense counterpoint cultivated by his father, adopting the empfindsamer Stil (sensitive style) that favoured emotive response.

On the surface, Driver underplays the opportunities for expression and reduces the dramatic possibilities inherent in the contrasts between alternating, toccata-like (or outwardly declamatory) passages and gently lyrical ones. He clearly relishes the pomposo spirit of the first movement from the Sonata in C minor, Wq 65/31, but Christopher Hinterhuber offers more flair in his selection for Naxos.

Despite this misgiving, Driver’s approach is impressive in many ways. Every keystroke is perfectly sprung, with fast, detached playing sounding pristine yet never clipped. The three voices in the slow movement from the Sonata in F sharp minor, Wq 52/4 are impeccably balanced, their transparency provoking a closeness of listening that creates deep engagement. The disc’s fabulous engineering brings the piano up close with an attractive liveliness.

These are not flamboyant performances, but they’re finely nuanced nevertheless. And you get the sense that, with repeated listening, the lucidity of these readings might well gather up a sense of majesty.

EDWARD BHESANIA Read the full review on Agora Classica


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