Stunning CPE From Schornsheim

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Period-instrument keyboard performers, like organists, are severely constrained by the tone of their instruments. Too often we are asked to accept thin, ugly, inexpressive sonorities simply because they allegedly represent historical “truth”. The reality, of course, is that there are good-sounding old instruments and bad-sounding ones. I have had the opportunity to inspect (and play) dozens of them over the years, and having done that I can state categorically that there is simply no excuse for listeners being forced to endure sub-standard instrumental tone whatever the instrument happens to be, especially on recordings.

For this program, Christine Schornsheim has selected an absolutely magnificent tangent piano housed in Schloß Bad Korzingen, one that, along with her scintillating playing, really brings this music to life. Not only does it allow her to sweep up and down the keyboard in those glittering arpeggios with which Bach adorns his Fantasias (try Wq 58/6), but the instrument turns on a dime. It can sustain a tone, or cut it off with amazing abruptness, giving an extra punch to those sudden modulations and changes of timbre and texture that make this music so exciting.

The program is also an unusually interesting one–a selection of Rondos and Fantasias from Bach’s Kenner and Liebhaber series of late keyboard works. The Rondos are supposed to be CPE’s concession to the popular taste, but they are anything but “easy” in the sense that they are often just as virtuosic as anything else that he wrote, and they are not rondos in the classical sense at all. Formally, they are more like variation sets with brief interludes coming between each varied restatement of theme, which may not return in its entirety.

Another noteworthy aspect of this program is that Schornsheim only includes three pieces in minor keys out of a total of 13 (Wq 59/4, 56/5, and 61/4). So many programs stress the Sturm und Drang aspects of Bach’s music, but this program proves that he could be just as inventive, and unpredictable, writing in a cheerier mood. There are some very substantial works here, packed with colorful contrasts, including the C major Fantasia Wq 59/6 and the wonderful E major Rondo Wq 57/1, and Schornsheim plays them all with unaffected mastery and an impish delight in their “what comes next” abruptness. The engineering of her splendid instrument is also drop-dead gorgeous. This is a great recital from start to finish, an aural and expressive delight.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: none

  • BACH, C.P.E.:
    Rondos and Fantasias from the "Kenner und Liebhaber" collection

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