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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Johann Christian’s Op. 17 Keyboard Sonatas date from the 1770s. They are most engaging works in two or three movements and obviously they had a profound influence on the young Mozart. They are played very stylishly on a modern piano by Alberto Nosè, and are very well recorded.

Lynn Rene Bayley
Fanfare, July 2008

I was not previously familiar with the playing of pianist Alberto Nosè, but he is really excellent. Not only is his technique crisp and well balanced in all of his fingering and phrasing, but he produces a singing tone that works wonders in this music. The sound quality of the CD is simply perfect for a piano album, pearly without being too resonant. You may or may not feel a need to own this disc, but if you have any interest in Johann Christian at all, you’ll not regret adding it to your collection.

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, March 2008

London-Bach, as he has been called, was the youngest of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons. He was fifteen when his father passed away and then moved to Berlin, where his half-brother Carl Philipp Emanuel was harpsichordist to Frederick the Great. Young Johann Christian studied with his brother and it was during this time he wrote his first concertos. In 1754 he moved to Italy where he was successful as an opera composer and it was in this capacity that he was called to London where he settled. In London he met the young Mozart and was greatly influenced by him as a composer. The six sonatas Op. 17, first published in Paris in 1774 as Op. 12, clearly show his compositional style. It is easy to hear similarities between the two composers, especially the earlier Mozart sonatas. Bach’s sonatas are good representatives of the gallant style with sweet melodics and the care-free and easygoing flow of the music.

Of these six sonatas only two are written in the traditional three movements and the brevity of most of them rather implies that they might have been labelled sonatinas instead. The exception is No. 6, which is on a much grander scale, elaborated and with deeper development of the thematic material. It is also technically the most demanding. Sonata No. 2 is the other three-movement piece and it also stands out as it is the only one in a minor key, which automatically lends it a more ‘serious’ character.

All the sonatas are highly entertaining and I don’t use that word in any pejorative sense. They are well constructed and fairly simple. Dr. Burney wrote about Bach’s keyboard compositions that they were ‘such as ladies can execute with little trouble’. But simplicity doesn’t exclude musical finesse, even though music of this kind shouldn’t be over-interpreted.

Alberto Nosè is a young Italian, who has a long list of prizes in prestigious piano competitions worldwide, most recently First Prize, Gold Medal and Sony Audience Prize in Santander 2005. The year before that I heard him in Florence where I found him better suited to Scriabin’s and Szymanowski’s late Romantic-to-Impressionist sound-world than Schumann’s more sweeping Romanticism. Half a century further back in history he reaps laurels through his clarity, his rhythmic poise and his light touch. He has a formidable technique, to which his prizes are testimony and which I also noted in Florence. He has ample opportunity to demonstrate this in Sonata No. 6, where the rousing finale in particular requires fluent finger-work. He sticks rather strictly to the basic tempos of each movement and keeps the dynamics within a rather limited scope, bearing in mind that these sonatas were composed for harpsichord or fortepiano. In other words he lets the music speak and puts himself in the background. I can’t think of better advocacy for Johann Christian Bach. Next time I would be happy to hear him in Scriabin or Szymanowski but I am afraid that Naxos have already dealt with both composers.

The recording has great clarity without being too analytical.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2008

The youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Christian became the ‘English Bach’ spending much of his mature life living in London where he was particularly involved in the composition of operas. By that time he arrived in England he had largely ended his career at the keyboard, but was then to gain recognition in London playing the square piano which he introduced to the city in 1768. The opus 17 keyboard sonatas were published in 1774—though they may well have been composed earlier—and were described as for harpsichord or fortepiano. Stylistically he obviously had the harpsichord in mind, those right hand trills much more effective when heard on the harpsichord. But we have them here played on a modern grand piano by Alberto Nose, the Italian winner of the 2005 Santander International Piano Competition. He plays them prettily and does his best to make the piano sound as close to a harpsichord as he can, while showing a good grasp of a late Baroque idiom. A staccato manner is used whenever possible, trills kept tight, each movement taken in one long span. Musically the sonatas do not have a great deal to say, and were obviously intended for the proficient amateur, Dr. Burney, the famous musicologist of the time, described their content so that ‘ladies can execute them with little trouble’. The recorded sound is reliable.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2008

Bach’s youngest son, known as “the London Bach”, followed in Handel’s footsteps, writing successful operas, oratorios and the like for his adoptive city’s audiences. Although (not unexpectedly) a superb keyboardist, he wrote surprisingly little for his instrument. When the eight-year-old Mozart spent a year in London, Johann Christian took him under his wing, no doubt recognising the lad’s genius. If Johann Christian’s works differ radically from his father’s, it’s not surprising, as the barqoue style yielded to rococo. Likewise, Wolfgang’s works sound unlike anything that his father Leopold wrote (is it not after all the duty of children to rebel against their elders?). The keyboard styles of both the younger Bach and Mozart are so similar as to be almost interchangeable. Alberto Nose plays brilliantly, has a profound feel for the idiom, and enjoys superbly recorded audio—a thoroughloy enjoyable disc.

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