With the passing of Gustav Leonhardt, elder statesman of period keyboard performance, the mantle passes to Ton Koopman, a treasure of the early music scene for the last 30 years. His witty approach to a potentially sober repertoire has charmed and illuminated, with several tours of this country and a discography treasured by connoisseurs.
His complete set of the elder Bach’s organ works is one of my desert island discs. As one of many cast-offs from the major labels we can thank Challenge Classics for continuing to record him and this latest release is a delight. Koopman’s musical personality is tailor-made for CPE Bach’s free-wheeling invention and whacky sense of fantasy. His experiments in period keyboard techniques has always given his playing an extra degree of air and space so CPE’s rhetorical stop-starts and flourishes have extra point and lift.
The younger Bach didn’t write much organ music but the six sonatas are delightful works in his mature empfindsamkeit style. Koopman has recorded them on a magnificent restored organ once owned by Princess Amalia of Prussia. She owned a manuscript of these works, so it’s possible the composer played on the very instrument heard here. Recorded in state of the art sound, one wonders anew at the remarkable achievements of 18th-century organ builders.