CD review Ch. S. Binder: Sei Suonate per il Cembalo #1

Christlieb Sigmund Binder (1723-1789)
Harpsichord Sonatas op.1 No. 1-6 (Dresden 1759)

2 CDs
Sonata for harpsichord No. 1 F major (Allegro e con spirito - Andante - Vivace)
Sonata for harpsichord No. 2 D major (Allegro - Un poco lento - Allegro assai)
Sonata for harpsichord No. 3 C-minor (Moderato - Presto - Cantabile alla pastorale - Presto)
Sonata for harpsichord No. 4 E major (Un poco allegro - Andante - Tempo di minuetto)
Sonata for harpsichord No. 5 A minor (Grave - Allegro - Un poco adagio e grazioso - Allegro assai e scherzando)
Sonata for harpsichord No. 6 B flat major (Allegro di molto - Adagio - Presto)
Paulina Tkaczyk (harpsichord made by Keith Hill, 2005, after Pascal Taskin, 1769)
Dux, Recording 9/2012 in Krakow, VÖ 2/2015

Sei Suonate per il Cembalo

Christlieb Siegmund Binder spent virtually all his life in Dresden – the town where he was born, was educated under Panteleon Hebenstreit and since 1751 worked as a court musician. Following the death of Hebenstreit as well as the organist and harpsichordist Peter August he was probably the most prominent musician that played keyboard instruments in Dresden.

Paulina Tkaczyk, a Polish harpsichordist, who presents the first recording to date of six sonatas printed in 1759 in Dresden, in a short text accompanying the record quotes the musicologist Richard Engländer, who claims that Binder's position in Dresden was similar to the one Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach held in Berlin. This is an apt comparison, since there are also a number of musical similarities between the two manifested in the intertwinement of solid baroque compositional techniques with the galant style. However, in contrast to the widely known works by Bach's son, Binder's compositions are rarely performed; few people have heard about them and so this recording is very welcome. Binder's influence was not as great as the one attributed to C. P. E. Bach, but the way his sonatas are composed puts them on the same technical level as C. P. E. Bach's works. Although they may not be as dominated by Sturm und Drang, they are very ingenious and varied, with more distinct French influence – there are parts reminiscent of Balbastre's work, which was first printed in the same year. It is thus possible to compare the way different musicians developed similar influences as well as new solutions and requirements. Each lover of C. P. E. Bach's music will listen to this recording with great pleasure.

For her début record Paulina Tkaczyk chose the kind of music she enjoys and which ideally corresponds to her temperament. She is a broadly educated person (she plays traverso flute as well; the list of her teachers is impressive) and has her own pleasant style with a well-developed, balanced level of tempos. Her selection of fast, harmonising tempos is very good, the only exception being the fourth sonatas' andante, which I would rather hear played at a slower tempo and with a more tranquil rhetoric.

Paulina Tkaczyk has perfectly mastered her instrument. However, Taskin is a kind of harpsichord which was rarely played in Dresden – why not Gräbner or Silbermann then? The original instruments have been preserved there and are fit for use. Nevertheless, this detail does not affect the quality of her début. Her harpsichord is very well suited to the music, the recital, which combines Binder's work with the work of Balbastre and other composers who wrote music for harpsichord of this generation. A Dresden instrument would add the remaining bit of authenticity. This should not stop anyone from buying this excellent CD. I much prefer Paulina Tkaczyk's playing style to the one presented by Michele Benuzzis, whose record with Christoph Nichelmann's sonatas came out recently despite the fact that he played the “authentic” harpsichord, which itself is of little consequence.

I am happy to note that young Polish musicians reach for such interesting repertoire. Binder's music is still too little researched and too unknown. This recording, however, makes an invaluable contribution.

[Miscellaneae germanicae 42, February 2015]