horizontal line

There are relatively few recordings of Wihelm Friedemann Bach’s keyboard works, and fewer still that are performed on a modern piano, so we are fortunate to have this disc by the US-born pianist Anthony Spiri. It’s a partial reissue of his 2007 W F Bach disc, Three Fantasias / Three Fugues / Three Sonatas, also on Oehms. Three of those compositions, then attributed to W F Bach, were later found to be by Johann Wilhelm Häßler, so Spiri has replaced them here with authentic Friedemann works: a fantasia in D minor and sonatas in E-flat major (F5) and C major (F2).

Wilhelm Friedemann’s reputation as Bach’s wayward eldest son may be deserved, but while his music is often eccentric, it can also be brilliantly inventive, as in what Spiri calls ‘the almost fanatical piling-up of polyphonic techniques’ in the C minor fugue, or in the A minor fantasia’s frantic prestissimo climax, which Spiri rather oddly hears as ‘implacable rage’. (Robert Hill’s fortepiano version on Naxos is even more fast and furious!)

The three sonatas – the attractive D major (F3) remains from the original CD – are wonderfully varied in their erratic veering between old-school counterpoint and newer galant and Empfindsamkeit styles, to all of which Friedemann gives his own idiosyncratic twists.

Spiri negotiates the technical difficulties of this music with a sure touch and also reveals a talent for locating the singing phrases to be found even in Friedemann’s more bizarre experiments.

GRAHAM LOCK Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Piano International, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing