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Harpsichord & fortepiano

John Collins

Spring 2014

Work: Carl Christian Friedrich Fasch
Complete Keyboard Works, Vol. 2-3
Editor: Christopher Hogwood
Publisher: Edition HH, HH301-2 SOL
Reviewed by John Collins

These two volumes complete the new edition by Christopher Hogwood in three volumes of the surviving keyboard works of Fasch the younger (1736-1800), pupil and colleague of C.P.E. Bach in Hamburg. He left only a few keyboard works for posterity, since on his deathbed he asked his pupil Zelter to burn his manuscripts.

Volume two contains two further sonatas and some 16 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 in C Major includes crossed hand passages, and the final movement makes much of lengthy single-note writing. Because of their difficulty, it is no surprise that these pieces lacked sufficient subscribers for a projected print.

The character pieces, 14 of which carry French-style names are nearly all bipartite, but there are also several rondeaux with varied numbers 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. Most are in the light and tuneful galant style, but “La Louise” is written in a sharply dotted rhythm, full of Sturm und Drang.

Volume three contains four sets of variations: an Arietta with 14, a Minuetto with 12, an Andantino with seven and a Minuet with just four variations (the theme was also used by Kirnberger, as well as a Mlle. Grunow. The first two sets in particular contain highly demanding and varied virtuoso writing with crossed hands, sweeping arpeggios, left hand thumb pivoting, and extended figuration. The far more approachable miscellaneous works consist of a Polonaise and Trio (with much Alberti bass), a short study for the left hand which offers scarcely any technical challenge(!), a short through-composed Allegro in C and finally three marches, 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, performance of which is covered in a table in the introduction. 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 forte piano (and clavichord). The composer’s skill was attested to by several well-informed performers and writers including Burney, Kirnberger and Reichardt, and this is evidenced in several movements; however, 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 includes a discussion of the pieces and an extensive critical commentary. 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.
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