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Mozart, C.P.E. Bach: Keyboard Variations - Demeyere

Mozart, C.P.E. Bach: Keyboard Variations - Demeyere

Challenge Classics  CC 72845

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Mozart: 12 Variations on 'La belle Françoise', K. 353/300f, 12 Variations on 'Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman', K. 265/300e
C.P.E. Bach: 9 Variations on an Arioso in C major, Wq 118/10, 12 Variations on 'Les Folies d'Espagne', Wq 118/9

Ewald Demeyere, harpsichord


Ewald Demeyere: "Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) are not composers whose works are regularly included in the same concert or recording program. One reason for this is probably of a stylistic nature: Bach wrote in the empfindsame Stil and in the Sturm und Drang style, while Mozart used a language that today is described as classical. For me, however, it is precisely this stylistic difference between the two composers, whose four works on this album were written between 1777 and 1782, that makes such a musical encounter so fascinating. Another reason why compositions by Bach and Mozart are not often programmed together seems to have to do with the choice of instrument. Today, in the context of historically informed performances, Bach’s solo keyboard repertoire is mainly played on the clavichord and that of Mozart on the fortepiano. Both men, however, also played the harpsichord frequently, a fact which I found so interesting as to choose precisely that keyboard instrument for this recording in works that I believe are just as convincing on that instrument as they are on their respective instrument of reference."

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - May 2, 2020

Somewhere in a distinguished artist’s life comes a moment that he or she is offered a free hand in choosing what to record for the label he or she is connected with. I’m not sure if that is true in this case, although Ewald Demeyere, who has participated in the production of more than a 100 CD’s, is without a shade of doubt a highly respected and learned keyboard authority in his native Belgium and elsewhere. But let us assume it is. Why?

As we have experienced with other celebrities having been allowed to record personal favourites, the result usually is one of particular interest. And so is this one. Demeyere explains in his scholarly inspired liner notes the rationale for his juxtaposition of C.P.E. Bach’s and W.A. Mozart’s variations and his choice to play them on the harpsichord. Two sets of variation by each composer follow in an alternative order. All fascinating material. Variations are proof of musical and technical ability of a composer and we must be glad that Demeyere has selected these for his, and by the same token, our benefit.

Is he a good player? No. He is better than that. He presents the variations in a way that keeps the listener’s attention at each turn and twist for a total of 63:32 minutes. I shall refrain from addressing every single one, referring the listener to the liner notes, but would nonetheless like, for obvious reasons, address the final set Ewald Demeyere has in store: « A vous dirais-je maman »

Ask anyone in France if he or she knows this traditional song, chances are that the answer is ‘no’. But if you play it and ask if he or she knows the lyrics, he or she will say ‘yes’ and sing this:

Quand trois poules vont aux champs
La première va devant
La deuxième suit la première
La troisième vient la dernière
Quand trois poules vont aux champs
La première va devant

For the purists, this may not be entirely correct, but for the French it is. Like the English equivalent: ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star etc.’.

Mozart has not been the only one, numerous other composers have used this popular melody: J.C.F. Bach, Frantz Liszt, and not to forget ‘Variations on a Nursery song’ from Ernst von Dohnanyi, to name but a few. Its origin is a bit vague and is thought having appeared for the first time in 1740 and in print around 1761 with lyrics from a ‘Poème d'amour anonyme, La Confidence’, followed by many variations in the text. Be that as it may, here we are mainly interested in Demeyere’s joyful playing and not so much about the lyrics.

Restricting myself to the essence of the recital, what remains is a feeling of optimism, something hard to come by these days. For that reason alone, investing in this release is already more than worth your while. And on top of that, you can’t wish for a better bonus than Ewald Demeyere conveying it all to you in a wealth of sound signed Bert van der Wolf.

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France

Copyright © 2020 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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