Intimate Duets, Salon Style

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

This release aims to recreate a late 18th-century European musical salon, where hostesses played keyboard duos with family and friends. Although the fortepiano was in vogue then, it had not entirely replaced the harpsichord, and both instruments often would be used in tandem. Sometimes you’d find a hybrid “Vis-à-vis”, a single rectangular instrument, where a keyboard at each end respectively activated a harpsichord and a fortepiano mechanism.

Harpsichordist Rebecca Cypess and fortepianist Yi-heng Yang pool resources by adapting J.S. Bach’s BWV 1039 (which exists as both the composer’s G major organ trio sonata and his Sonata in G for two flutes and continuo) and C. P. E. Bach’s Flute Sonata Wq. 87 for their instruments, alongside two works originally scored for keyboard duet. The contrasts between instruments fuse into an attractive sonorous entity, while the blended harpsichord lute stop and fortepiano yield particularly subtle results in Wq. 87’s slow movement.

More importantly, Cypess and Yang turn in fluent yet relaxed performances, favoring reasonable tempos that don’t veer toward fast or slow extremes. One might question their heavy-gaited Presto in the W.F. Bach concerto, yet the players’ rhythmic thrust propels the music forward to delightful effect. Ditto for BWV 1039’s finale, and the mobile deliberation they bring to BWV 1061a’s Presto fugue. What is more, Cypess and Yang avoid the kind of fussy agogic stresses and phrasing hiccups that too many period keyboard practitioners habitually trot out in the name of “style”. They play naturally and directly, with palpably genial and unpressured give and take. Cypess’ scholarly annotations delve deep into detail, and the sonics convey more than a semblance of salon-like intimacy. An enchanting disc.



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Recording Details:

Album Title: Sisters, Face to Face
Reference Recording: None for this collection

W. F. BACH: Concerto in F major Fk. 10
C. P. E. BACH: Sonata in C major Wq. 87
J.S. BACH: Sonata in G major BWV 1039; Concerto in C major BWV 1061a

  • The Raritan Players: Rebecca Cypess (harpsichord); Yi-heng Yang (fortepiano)

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