How often piano students overlook the buoyancy of rests in their daily practicing. Upon prodding they will reluctantly count out the eighth or quarter squiggles, impatient with intervals of silence, craving the excitement of sound bursts.
But in haste, they’re overlooking the beauty endowed in well-placed rests that intersperse scores of the MASTERS.
Case in point:
This exuberant performance of C.P.E. Bach’s Sonata in G Major (1757) rendered by harpsichordist, Elaine Comparone realizes to the hilt, the silences that make this composition so enjoyable. I call them “uplifting.”
I was struck by the improvisatory feel and mood shifts, well-captured by Comparone. (not to mention rhythmic vitality)
A personal revelation: The use of the harp stop in the course of this performance.
Please see the link to an interview with Comparone where she discusses this harpsichord feature among others.
The composer, one of Bach’s sons, was on the cusp of the Classical era, still retaining a tie to the Baroque.
Bach Carl Philipp Emanuel
“Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (8 March 1714 – 14 December 1788) was a German Classical period musician and composer, the fifth child and second (surviving) son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. His second name was given in honor of his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann, a friend of Emanuel’s father.
“Emanuel Bach was an influential composer working at a time of transition between his father’s baroque style and the classical and romantic styles that followed it. His personal approach, an expressive and often turbulent one known as empfindsamer Stil or ‘sensitive style’, applied the principles of rhetoric and drama to musical structures. Bach’s dynamism stands in deliberate contrast to the more mannered rococo style also then in vogue.….
LEGACY and MUSICAL STYLE:
“Through the later half of the 18th century, the reputation of Emanuel Bach stood very high. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart said of him, “He is the father, we are the children.” The best part of Joseph Haydn’s training was derived from a study of his work. Ludwig van Beethoven expressed for his genius the most cordial admiration and regard.
“His keyboard sonatas, for example, mark an important epoch in the history of musical form. Lucid in style, delicate and tender in expression, they are even more notable for the freedom and variety of their structural design; they break away altogether from both the Italian and the Viennese schools, moving instead toward the cyclical and improvisatory forms that would become common several generations later.”
Elaine Comparone sent in-depth commentary about CPE attributed to Charles Burney:
“Carl Philipp Emanuel, the second son of Johann Sebastian, achieved greater renown in his day than either his father or his brothers. He served as harpsichordist of King Frederick the Great in Berlin and Potsdam for 29 years, after which he succeeded his godfather, Georg Philipp Telemann, as director of church music in Hamburg. Among his compositions are over 200 keyboard sonatas, 22 passions, two oratorios, many songs, concertos and sinfonias. He infused vitality into the musical life of Hamburg by organizing subscription concerts. He also wrote a celebrated treatise on The Art of Playing the Keyboard, in which he analyzed improvisation, accompanying, performance and thorough-bass.
“In addition to his ground-breaking musical activity, Carl Philipp Emanuel collected art and read widely, motivated by a desire for a wide-ranging education. Savoring the exchange of ideas, he frequently entertained visitors in his home. Charles Burney, English traveler and writer on music, considered his visit to Carl Philipp Emanuel’s house on October 12, 1772, a highlight of his tour of Central Europe. In Burney’s own words:
“When I went to his house, I found him with three or four rational, and well-bred persons, his friends besides his own family consisting of Mrs. Bach, his eldest son, who practises the law, and his daughter. The instant I entered, he conducted me up stairs, into a large and elegant music room furnished with pictures, drawings, and prints of more than a hundred and fifty eminent musicians: among whom, there are many Englishmen, and original portraits, in oil, of his father and grandfather…M. Bach was so obliging as to sit down to his Silbermann clavichord, and favourite instrument, upon which he played three or four of his choicest and most difficult compositions with the delicacy, precision, and spirit, for which he is so justly celebrated among his countrymen. In the pathetic and slow movements, whenever he had a long note to express, he absolutely contrived to produce, from his instrument, a cry of sorrow and complaint, such as can only be effected upon the clavichord, and perhaps by himself.
“After dinner, which was elegantly served and cheerfully eaten, I prevailed upon him to sit down again to a clavichord, and he played, with little intermission, till near eleven o’clock at night. During this time, he grew so animated and possessed, that he not only played, but looked like one inspired. His eyes were fixed, his under lip fell, and drops of effervescence distilled from his countenance…He is now fifty-nine, rather short in stature, with black hair and eyes, and brown complexion, has a very animated countenance and lively disposition.
“His performance to-day convinced me of what I had suggested before from his works; that he is not only one of the greatest composers that ever existed, for keyed instruments, but the best player, in point of expression: for others, perhaps, have had as rapid execution: however, he possesses every style; though he chiefly confines himself to the expressive…
“There are several traits in the characters of the younger Scarlatti and Emanuel Bach , which bear a strong resemblance. Both were sons of great and popular composers, regarded as standards of perfection by all their contemporaries, except their own children, who dared to explore new ways to fame. Domenico Scarlatti, half a century ago, hazarded notes of taste and effect, at which other musicians have but just arrived, and to which the public ear is but lately reconciled; Emanuel Bach, in like manner, seems to have outstripped his age….”