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David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2015

Johann Christian Bach, the tenth child of Johann Sebastian and Anna Magdalena, was born in 1735, that date placing him at a crossroads in keyboard development. His father had died when he was fifteen, and he went to live with his much elder brother, Johann Christian, who continued his musical education. He principally became known as a keyboard performer, though moving to Italy to further his education found him involved in opera, his early scores being so well received that they resulted in commissions, two of which came from London. There he found such admiring audiences, he decided to take up residence in the city, and it was there that he met Johann Zumpe, the first important piano maker in England. With Bach’s brilliance at the keyboard they introduced the new square piano, its extended dynamic range allowing it to be heard in large concert venues. From therein he became London’s most popular performer and teacher, while his compositions for keyboard, in which he could mark changes of dynamics only available on the ‘Piano Forte’, hastened the end of the harpsichord’s popularity. The six of the opus 5 sonatas were a watershed, to an extent that the keyboard works of Mozart grew out of them, and you can trace that family tree forward through the 19th century. They are here played by Rachel Heard, one of North America’s experts in period performances. Playing a modern recreation of a Fortepiano from around 1800, its upper octaves sparkle while remaining wonderfully transparent in the lower registers. Fast tempos can, at times, sound as if they are running away with themselves, but I love her relaxed slow movements, and she brings the operatic lyricism Bach wanted to create on the new instrument. The sound quality is a little over-bright. © 2015 David’s Review Corner

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