CPE Bach: Württemberg Sonatas, Wq49

Reviewed on Mon 11 Aug, 2014

Mahan Esfahani is about as hot a property as it is possible for a harpsichordist to be: he was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and gave the first ever solo harpsichord recital at the Proms in 2011. For this his first recording on Hyperion he has chosen a fairly obscure set of early sonatas by CPE Bach (published 1744) that, like so much of this composer’s music, refuse to conform to easy labelling as either 'baroque' or 'rococo'. Indeed, in his self-penned booklet note Esfahani challenges the very idea of such categorisations. And his fluid, pianistic approach (especially in the slower movements), with lots of dynamic contrast and use of the keyboard’s varied registers, only emphasises the liminal nature of these vivacious pieces. Esfahani plays a modern copy of an early 18th-century Berlin-built harpsichord, every authentic creak and groan of which is collected by the Hyperion team’s microphones.
–Mark Walker