Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 31 & 32
C.P.E. Bach: Prelude, Variations and Fugue in D minor; Fantasia and Rondo in A

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven




“Cameron Watson’s blend of CPE Bach with Beethoven’s last piano sonatas is a smart and successful one. The two composers go well together, better than you’d expect, and Watson’s smart programming sets major-key Bach “against” minor-key Beethoven and vice versa, building a recital of true contrast and coherence... These are not single works by CPE. They are a collection of five pieces brought together by Watson in an inspired ordering; he pairs, for instance, a character piece, a set of variations on ‘La Spagna,’ and a fugue into a coherent suite... Watson writes in his own liner notes that “these three works in D minor-played consecutively-give a sense of a (potential) larger architecture and [that architecture] gives Bach’s smaller works a form for comparison with a monument like Beethoven’s.” He’s absolutely right, and Watson’s success with CPE Bach is the CD’s biggest. Besides the mere wonderful fact that these works actually stand up to Beethoven’s when compiled together, there are the excellent performances, and the use of a Yamaha to give a slightly drier sound… The Beethoven [performances are] very romantic and subjective and thus daringly removed from CPE Bach’s world… As a concept album, this works… As a recital program, it works too… I’m happy to propose this to the curious, and to anyone who recognizes the Beethoven is not the main draw.“
Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International [November 2013]
“Canadian Watson is a man of many talents… For this well filled recording he juxtaposes two substantial works by CPE Bach, cobbled together from several individual pieces, with Beethoven’s last two sonatas. His fascinating notes present arguments as to why he has chosen to do so. Moreover, he uses a smaller Yamaha G-2 for the Bach and a full 9-foot Steinway for the Beethoven. The sound of each instrument is appropriate, especially the clavichord and piano together in Bach… both composers are well served by the instruments and by the well thought out and penetrating interpretations… Watson always holds one’s interest and earns our respect for his communicative ability… [his Beethoven] is an interesting take from an active mind and nimble fingers. Good sound."

Becker, American Record Guide [September/October 2013]
With this album, pianist Cameron Watson has put together a recital program that makes [the] argument that a 'subliminal affinity is present in the line from [C.P.E.] Bach through Haydn and then to Beethoven.' It’s a gorgeous program (and brilliantly played) regardless of the musicological argument, and thus equally recommendable as an attractive addition to any piano collection and a potentially strong support to academic programs."
Rick Anderson, CD HotList [May 2013]
The history of music is a story of change. At some points it is definitive: as when Peri and the Camerata of Bardi literally birth-dated the Baroque Period in 1600 with Peri’s opera Euridice. However, when it comes to dating the birth of the Classical Era, all we can do is pin history to the death of one composer and be content that it happens to be a round number. The living and vital sub-currents that swirl about the death of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1750 make this date, as the beginning of the Classical Period, a historical convenience at best.

The life and career of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach is a case in point. C.P.E. Bach and his  brothers were already on a completely new trajectory well before the death of their father. Imbued with the new aesthetics of sturm und drang, stil galant and Empfindsamkeit, they forged new ground that, long after their fathers death, bore the mature Classicism of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

C.P.E. Bach (“Bach”) was the champion of the new empfindsamer stil—the style of feeling. He composed in a new, fragmentary, highly contrasted language that smote the prevailing Doctrine of Affects—and any affinity to his father’s legacy—asunder. Not only was there more than one affekt per movement, but the new expression, as manifest in Bach’s new vocal approach to the keyboard, was intense, personal, declamatory and subjective.

Bach’s influence on the First Viennese School is well documented. Haydn poured over his works finding inspiration for his early sonatas. Beethoven’s first teacher, Christian Gottlob Neefe, was a north German adherent and well versed in Bach’s works. In turn, there are accounts of Beethoven, now the teacher, using Bach’s Essay and other works as material in the instruction of luminaries such as Carl Czerny and even the Archduke Rudolph.

But connecting Beethoven with Bach, soul-to-soul, is more of an act of intuition. It is generally observed that a subliminal affinity is present in the line from Bach through Haydn and finally Beethoven that is fundamentally different than the line that runs from Johann Christian Bach through Mozart. The former is often characterized by terse, angular ideas and disruptive phraseology whereas the latter is more poised, melodic and possessed with a certain “classical” equilibrium. It is in this difference we sense that Beethoven’s musical DNA is in the phylum of Bach and Haydn, not Mozart.

In the present recording, I have endeavored to expose this common DNA by juxtaposition. The works chosen reflect those elements that—by their nature, exhibit an affinity: bar-less recitative, a certain speaking (‘redend’) quality, high contrast motivically/rhythmically/ dynamically, plangent adagios, skeletal keyboard textures and a sense of freedom driven by a kind of mysticism.

Cameron Robert Watson brings to the piano a broad view of music, refusing to limit his range of experiences to “just piano.” In addition to teaching, examining, adjudication and performance throughout Canada, he has recorded numerous solo programs for CBC; written music for theatre, film and dance; and performed both as pianist and narrator in interdisciplinary projects combining dance, visual art and poetry.

Watson’s key teachers include Boris Roubakine, Leonard Isaacs, William Aide, Jane Coop and the eminent Gyorgy Sebök as well as composers Luigi Zanninnelli and Dr. Gerhardt Wuensch. After studying filmmaking at New York University, he translated his lifelong love of dance and music into a documentary entitled Dancessence produced by ACCESS Television. In addition to these activities, Watson is a legal scholar, possessing an LLB from the University of Alberta, and was the winner of the 2000 Gordon F. Henderson/ SOCAN Copyright Award for his work on music copyright.

Cameron Watson holds a Bachelor of Music with distinction in piano performance from the University of Calgary and a Master of Music in performance and composition from the University of Western Ontario. He has also studied at the University of British Columbia, The Banff School of Fine Arts and in Europe under the Canada Council.

La Stahl [H 94, Wq 117:25]
12 Variationen auf die Folie d’Espagne [H 263, Wq 118: 9]
Fugue in D minor [H 372.5, Wq 119:2]

Moderato cantabile, molto espressivo
Allegro molto
Adagio, ma non troppo
Fuga: Allegro ma non troppo

Fantasia in A major [H 278,Wq 58:7]
Rondo in A minor [H 262, Wq 56:5]

Maestoso: Allegro con brio ed appassionato
Arietta: Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile

MSR Classics