W.f. Bach: Keyboard Works Vol 3 / Julia Brown
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W. F. BACH Sonatas: in Eb, F 5; in Bb, F 9; in C, F 2; in D, F 4. Suite in g, F 24 • Julia Brown (hpd) • NAXOS 8.572814 (75:58)
This is the third volume in Naxos’s projected series of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s keyboard works. Like the previous two, it features Julia Brown, music director and organist of the First United Methodist Church in Eugene, Oregon. (The previous volumes featured organ works, 8.570571, and Fantasias and Fugues, 8.570530.) Although the previous harpsichord disc received good reviews, there was a caveat that Brown tended to play too slowly. That certainly isn’t the case on this disc. If anything, the consistently upbeat tempos of these pieces tend to sound quite jaunty, and Brown’s penchant for introducing obvious moments of rubato in her phrasing creates the same kind of stutter-step in the music that one hears in the keyboard works of Dietrich Buxtehude.
My issue is not so much with Brown’s playing, which is sparkling and lively, as it is with Bach’s music. It’s exceptionally well crafted but lacks imagination. Yes, there are moments here and there which grab one’s attention—he was, after all, a Bach—but even when compared with his younger brother Johann Christian’s piano sonatas, they lack charm. When one lacks both inventiveness and charm, one is left with very little save energy. The liner notes, written by Brown herself, claim otherwise; she hears “sudden contrasts and surprising changes” in the Bb-Major Sonata, but to my ears such changes are quite mild compared to any of his brother Carl Philipp Emanuel’s keyboard pieces. Generally, what I hear is the older style of his father reworked and retreaded so often that the tire tracks show. Nearly every piece has the same bright, perky quality. To my ears, the most original and imaginative movement in the entire recital is the second movement ( Grave ) of the Sonata in C Major. If you hear W.F. Bach’s music differently, however, there is no question that this is an outstanding disc to get.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Catalog Number: 8572814
Composer: Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
Performer: Julia Brown