Composer: Carl Christian Friedrich Fasch
Title: Complete Keyboard Works, Volumes 2 and 3
Editor: Christopher Hogwood
Publisher: Edition HH, HH301.SOL, HH302.SOL
Reviewed by John Collins
The two volumes reviewed here complete the new edition by Christopher Hogwood in three volumes of the surviving keyboard works of Fasch the Younger (1736-18oo), pupil and colleague of C.P.E. Bach in Hamburg, who left only a few keyboard works for posterity since, on his deathbed, he asked his pupil Zelter to burn the contents of his music cabinet.
Volume Two contains two further sonatas and some sixteen character pieces. The sonatas, apparently never printed by Fasch’s pupil Rellstab, are each in three movements, with fast virtuoso outer movements enclosing a slow, lyrical central movement. The first sonata is in the rarely encountered key of Bb minor, the second one is in C major and has crossed-hand passages in the first movement. The final movement makes much of lengthy single-note writing. Perhaps it is not surprising that insufficient subscribers were found for a projected print.
The character pieces, fourteen of which, like those by C.P.E. Bach, carry French-style names, are nearly all bipartite, although there are also several rondeaux with varied number of couplets; La Gutsch is the most extended. The Chaconne I Corni di San Martino is most effective in its relatively simple writing. Far more accessible than the very demanding sonatas, these delightful pieces contain plenty of stylistic and textural variety, with most being cast in the galant style, even if La Louise is full of Sturm und Drang drama.
Volume three contains four sets of variations and four miscellaneous pieces. The first two sets of variations in particular contain some highly demanding and varied virtuoso writing, with hand crossings, sweeping arpeggios, lefthand thumb pivoting, and extended figuration. The far more approachable miscellaneous pieces consist of a Polonaise and Trio with much use of Alberti bass, a short study for the lefthand that offers scarcely any technical challenge (!), a short, through-composed Allegro in C and, finally, three Marches, which were probably not intended as keyboard pieces, since the third contains suggestions of orchestration.
A wide range of ornaments (the trill with prefix or suffix is frequently indicated) and articulation signs is used, the performance of which is covered in a table in the introduction to each volume. Although there is not as wide a range of dynamic markings as in the first volume, there are further instances of widely spaced writing, and all of the pieces in these two volumes are still particularly suited to the clavichord. The composer’s skill was attested to by experts such as Burney, Kirnberger, and Reichardt, and this is evidenced in several movements. Perseverance with the trickier passages will reap dividends.
Four facsimiles are a useful addition to each volume. The printing is of the usual clarity associated with Edition HH, and the volume is in the familiar spiral binding with a wrapover cover. There is a discussion of the pieces contained in each volume, and an extensive critical commentary. The tireless efforts of Christopher Hogwood and his team of assistants, and the publisher Per Hartmann, in making this composer’s works available in such excellent editions, deserve our thanks and appreciation. These pieces will give much pleasure to player and listener, and most are well worthy of inclusion in recitals.
We are grateful to John Collins for permission to reproduce this review.