Harpsichord Gems, vol.1. J.C.Bach. Clavier Sonatas

Olga Martynova

(5 press reviews)
Original Recording Format: DSD 64
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Supposedly Johann Sebastian Bach was a strict father who used a quotation from the poet Gellert to describe his youngest offspring: ‘He will go far guided by his stupidity!’ Even if the story is true, the elder Bach was undoubtedly speaking in jest: his youngest son was his favourite. And he certainly did go far. Incidentally, he lost his father when he was only 15, and few people have learned wisdom by that age.
His father gave Johann Christian his first music lessons and probably created the second volume of ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ for him. This means that for both father and son their art began with the keyboards (when still a child Johann Christian could play the clavichord, harpsichord and organ; later he also grew fond of what was then a new, expensive and rare instrument – the pianoforte). Johann Christian’s early pieces were also for clavier: the young composer wrote minuets and polonaises for his mother Anna Magdalena’s music notebook, the ‘Clavier- Bu?chlein’. He was probably excited to inherit three harpsichords after his father’s death. Perhaps his childhood memories were so strong that no matter what later took his fancy and whatever genres he preferred, Johann Christian continued to write for the clavier for the rest of his life. Some of his works for pianoforte were so popular that in musical instrum instrument shops there was increased demand for this costly novelty. 


Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Sonata in G major op.5 N3. - Allegro
Sonata in G major op.5 N3. - Allegretto
Sonata in B-flat major op.5 N1. - Allegretto
Sonata in B-flat major op.5 N1. - Tempo di Minuetto
Sonata in E-flat major op.5 N4. - Allegro
Sonata in E-flat major op.5 N4. - Rondeaux
Sonata in G major op.17 N4. - Allegro
Sonata in G major op.17 N4. - Presto
Sonata in C minor op.17 N2. - Allegro
Sonata in C minor op.17 N2. - Andante
Sonata in C minor op.17 N2. - Prestissimo
Sonata in A major op.17 N5. - Allegro
Sonata in A major op.17 N5. - Presto

Total time: 01:08:27

Additional information





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Digital Converters

Meitner Design


Microphones – Neumann km130 DPA (B & K) 4006 ; DPA (B & K) 4011 SCHOEPS mk2S ; SCHOEPS mk41




Original Recording Format


Michael Serebryanyi

Recording Engineer

Erdo Groot, Carl Schuurbiers, Roger de Schot

Recording location

5th Studio of the Russian Television and Radio

Recording Software


Recording Type & Bit Rate


Release DateSeptember 19, 2015

Press reviews

AllMusic 4 out of 5

The influence of the “London Bach” upon Mozart is often thought to reside in the former’s orchestral and operatic works, which Mozart is known to have studied closely. The little keyboard sonatas recorded here, however, were equally influential. The child Mozart turned two of them (plus a third not included here) into piano concertos, and the patterns found in these works continued to hang in Mozart’s mind into his maturity.

Consider the impressive Keyboard Sonata in C minor, Op. 17/2, composed in 1772 and 1773, whose emotional path closely parallels that of the Mozart Piano Sonata in C minor, K. 457. The other sonatas here are all in two movements rather than three. Yet not only the sunny mood but also the confident three-part structures of the sonata expositions, with first theme, second theme, and closing theme spelling out a large IV-V-I cadence, sound extremely Mozartian in retrospect.

These sonatas were written for Bach’s powerful student-patrons, with Queen Consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg at the top of the list, and they have a pleasing combination of sophistication and modest technical demands. The earlier set, Opus 5, was the first British publication to specify either harpsichord or piano.

A harpsichord was still the primary choice, but the playing of Russian keyboardist Olga Martynova, while impressive in its precision, is a bit too mechanical for the coquettish spirit of the music. The studio sound from the Russian audiophile label Caro Mitis, however, is, if anything, even beyond the imprint’s usual high standard, and the album is about brilliant surfaces over which the listener slides with pleasure. The detailed and engaging booklet notes by Larisa Kirillina, given in Russian, German, and English, are a bonus.

Musica 5 out of 5

The Russian label Caro Mitis has decided to dedicate part of its catalog to harpsichordist Olga Martynova, the lecturer at the Moscow Conservatory and the Gnesin Special School. The right choice, why? Martynova, an emerging figure in the increasingly crowded baroque music scene, shows that it possesses taste, elegance, virtuosity, and imagination.

Johann Christian Bach’s sonatas capture the melancholy lightness, with a lively and never obvious phrasing, proving that the aesthetics of gallant style, always at the risk of school interpretations, reveal all its charm when a keyboard sits a careful interpreter to avoid easy symmetries. Also excellent is the technical quality of the recording and ringing and clean the sound of the instrument used, a modern copy of a Parisian harpsichord N. & Blanchet of 1730.

The same melancholy elegance can be found in the phrasing of the transcripts of Silvius Leopold Weiss. It is a phrasing now moving for the expressive intensity, especially in the Allemande and Sarabande, now electrifying for the rhythmic vitality and vivacity with which the embellishments are made. Olga Martynova also disengages with skill in the contrapuntal plot of Reincken’s Sonata Trio arranged by the young Bach, as in the more fragile weavings of the Pieces de Clavecin that the violinist Francesco Geminiani, contemporary of Weiss and Bach, has obtained from his Sonatas for violin op. 1. Fascinating interpretations of the balance between executive brilliance and natural elegance, especially in rapid movements. And fascinating is also the dark timbre of the harpsichord used for this second album, a modern instrument, modeled French, built by the American William Dowd in the 1970s.

The last album is also the most curious, since the title that paraphrases a famous Woody Allen film (Everything you would have wanted to know about the harpsichord, but that you never dared to ask). In reverse operation, Olga Martynova performs pages composed for the piano on the harpsichord. The results are singular, especially in Shostakovich’s Preludes and Escapes, composed for the piano but in the spirit of the harpsichord, which sounds strange, not without – see the Escape in King Major – a subtle irony.

The transcriptions of Schubert and Schumann’s pages are more perplexing, not so much because of Martynova’s interpretation, which is plausible, but because of the sound limits of the instrument. They surprise, however, Cramer’s piano studies that at the harpsichord show with extreme clarity their polyphonic weaving and almost end up being more stimulating in this unusual and bizarre dress: in particular the Studio in Fa minor turns under the hands of Martynova into a jewel of elegance and panache. Interesting, finally, the thumbnails are taken from Khachaturian’s Album for Youth, why? these stylized pages with a popular flavor make the harpsichord look like a modern instrument and not a legacy of the past, almost evoking sound – this is the paradox – from electronic music.

Opus Haute Définition: J. C. Bach Sonates pour Clavier

Ce Super Audio CD nous invite à entendre une sélection de Sonates pour clavier de Jean Chrétien Bach. Trois Sonates de l’opus 5 dont le musicologue Karl Geiringer disait qu’elles : « respirent cette douceur d’expression, cette chaleur sensitive de mélodie qui fascinaient Mozart enfant ». Et trois Sonates de l’opus 17. Il est bon d’ajouter également que « l’influence de Jean-Chrétien Bach sur la personnalité musicale de Mozart est tout à fait évidente. Si le premier n’a pas le génie du second, il y a cependant chez eux de grandes analogies. On retrouve dans leur musique la même invention mélodique, la même grâce, le même raffinement, le même chant élégant », comme le souligne un ouvrage sur la question. Néanmoins, avec trente sept concertos pour clavier et orchestre, Jean-Chrétien Bach ne s’éternisa guère sur le clavier seul. L’enregistrement qui nous occupe ici, en pur DSD, dans une prise de son admirable, nous livre l’interprétation de la jeune Olga Martynova. Et nous ne pouvons qu’admirer son sens du toucher, la façon dont elle laisse s’épanouir les mélodies, avec toutefois une réserve, sur la souplesse de son jeu et la crispation, parfois, qui accompagne certains phrasés. Mais ne nous y trompons pas, l’essentiel est là, sous les doigts de la jeune artiste et c’est tout ce qui compte.

Toccata Music Update (Alte Musik Aktuell)

Johann Sebastian Bach’s favorite and youngest son Johann Christian is also known as the “Milan” or “London Bach”. After his father’s death, he moved to Berlin where he lived together with his brother Carl Philipp Emanuel. Then he went to Milano where he became the organist of the famous cathedral after he changed from protestant to the catholic church. Soon after that, he contacted the Italian opera: Johann Christian left job and City of Milano and toured through Italy the next ten years as an opera composer. Then he went to London where he lived the next 20 years and died as a poor man (his servant cheated him). The Russian Harpsichordist Olga Martynova, best known for her interpretations in Russia, plays now six sonatas in a high leveled way as l hear not so often. This is great music from a great musician!

Olga Martynova can elicit incredible finesse from the self-loving compositions of Bach. The thought of what would be if the compositional template had an even higher level arises. I notice and realize that Olga Martynova plays in such an absolutely disarming way that I have very rarely played a harpsichordist. This is the finest skill and the highest art!

Audiophile Audition Review: Harpsichord Gems, vol.1. J.C.Bach. Selected Clavier Sonatas 4 out of 5

Melodious sonatas in Classic style, similar to Mozart’s but with less depth and development

This release is Volume 1 of a series on the Russian label titled
Harpsichord Gems. It may seem rather odd to see albums of early music
coming from such a source, but there is a small group of Russian
musicians specializing in this genre, including the Pratum Integrum
Orchestra, with which young Martynova often plays. In fact she is one
of the premier harpsichordists in Russian today. It was her idea
to record some of the clavier sonatas of Johann Christian Bach, and she
selected the six presented here.

J.C. was J.S.’s favorite of his many sons, and it was for him that the
elder Bach created Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier. As a
child J.C. was playing the harpsichord, clavichord and organ, and later
grew fond of the newly-developed pianoforte. At his father’s death J.C.
was only 15, and he inherited three of J.S.’s harpsichords. He moved
from Leipzig to Milan where he spent a decade, but he then settled in
London, becoming known as The London Bach. He composed for keyboards
his entire life, in addition to symphonies, concertos and various
chamber works. The child Mozart studied J.C. Bach’s music carefully and
the elder composer was drawn to the young genius. The two composers’
music share a similar style, but the gallant approach of Bach’s with
clear and strong melodies and light sensuality is in contrast to
Mozart’s abilities to develop his themes intensively and creatively.
Mozart even arranged the Sonatas 3 &4 from Opus 5 here as concertos
for clavier and strings.

The sonatas were intended to be performed on any keyboards available at
the time, but they neither lean toward the octaves, chords and other
devices of early pianoforte music nor are they filled with ornaments as
is most Baroque harpsichord and clavichord music. The Sonata No. 2 from
Opus 17 is unique in having all three of its movements in sonata form.
The closing Sonata No. 5 is in a sunny A Major and has an Italian mood
to it, bringing the J.C. Bach recital to a graceful and melodic
conclusion. The instrument is a 1985 copy of a 1730 Parisian
harpsichord and is miked just right using five mikes, but not too
closely to pick up annoying mechanical noise.


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