KEITH JARRETT / CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH: WÜRTTEMBERG SONATAS ECM New Series 2790/91
Keith Jarrett’s account of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Württemberg Sonatas is a revelation. “I’d heard the sonatas played by harpsichordists, and felt there was a space left for a piano version,” says Jarrett today. This outstanding recording, made in May 1994 and previously unreleased, finds the pianist attuned to the expressive implications of the sonatas in every moment. The younger Bach’s idiosyncrasies: the gentle playfulness of the music, the fondness for subtle and sudden tempo shifts, the extraordinary, rippling invention…all of this is wonderfully delivered. The fluidity of the whole performance has a quality that perhaps could be conveyed only by an artist of great improvisational skills. In Jarrett’s hands, CPE Bach’s exploration of new compositional forms retains the freshness of discovery. The pianist also takes to heart CPE’s famous statement: “Since a musician cannot move others unless he himself is moved, he must of necessity feel all of the affects that he hopes to arouse in his listeners."
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Württemberg Sonatas were written in 1742-3, and dedicated to Carl Eugen Duke of Württemberg, who studied with CPE at the court of Frederik the Great in Berlin. Published in 1744, they are regarded today as musical masterpieces of the era between the Baroque and the Classical.
Keith Jarrett’s recording of the Württemberg Sonatas followed a period in which he had been focussing on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. ECM New Series documented Jarrett’s interpretations of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Buch 1 (recorded February 1987), the Goldberg Variations (January 1989), The French Suites (September1991) and, with Kim Kashkashian, the 3 Sonaten für Viola da Gamba und Cembalo (also September 1991). Other classical recordings made by Jarrett in this period included Shostakovich’s Bach-inspired 24 Preludes and Fugues (recorded July 1991) and Suites for Keyboard by Bach’s contemporary Georg Friedrich Händel (September 1993).
In parallel with all this activity, Jarrett was continuing to work with his improvising trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, raising the bar for interpretive performances of jazz standards. Just three weeks after the CPE Bach recording, the trio was at New York’s Blue Note for an historic three-night run subsequently issued as an award-winning 6-CD box set.
At the year’s end, there was further classical activity, Jarrett playing Mozart Piano Concertos with the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester under the direction of Dennis Russell Davies. It was Mozart who had hailed CPE Bach as “the father of us all,” a musician who brought a new creative freedom to composing for the keyboard.
The 2-CD set includes booklet with liner notes by Paul Griffiths.