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Composers writing in the empfindsamer Stil or ‘sensitive style’ (mainly from 18th-century north Germany) believed ‘in the need for convincing, sensitive personal expression at the keyboard’; C. P. E. Bach pleaded for musicians to ‘play from the soul’. Carole Cerasi’s selection of works includes some of the most deeply felt musical utterances ever composed during this time. C. P. E. Bach of course, is well represented, but there are offerings too from his great friend Johann Gottfried Müthel (1728–1788), as well as other enthusiasts of Bach – Haydn and Mozart.

Cerasi’s performance on that ‘lonely, melancholy, inexpressibly sweet instrument’, the clavichord, intensifies the listening experience on this truly inspiring disc, bringing intimacy as only the clavichord can. Yet for all the sumptuous instrument (a 1784 Hoffmann from the Cobbe Collection at Hatchlands Park) and masterpieces on offer, it is the artist here who deserves the most credit. In her extremely capable hands, the music is transformed into finely carved works of art, nowhere more so than Bach’s F sharp minor Fantasie Wq 67. This self-portrait of the composer in old age is so beautifully crafted, with every nuance and colour plunging the listener into an array of ever-changing emotions, that it’s almost a relief to hear the last chord and be released from the music’s intensity.

After a major-key lift in the middle movement of Bach’s Sonata in E minor Wq 52/6, the last movement is enshrouded in tense, nervous anxiety, while every last drop is squeezed out of Mozart’s B minor Adagio KV540. Haydn’s C minor Sonata Hob XIV/ 20 is suitably restless and turbulent. Cerasi is a master of her art.

Katharine May Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing