Some recommended C.P.E. Bach recordings


Please note:


Earlier versions of this discography attempted to distinguish between discs no longer available, discs seemingly unavailable, discs hard to find, etc.


In view of the continual flux in the availability of classical recordings, making it frankly impossible for me to keep track, I have decided to drop this feature except in special circumstances (such as with Spányi, below).


For the rest, I am hopeful that the catalog numbers will be of use in tracking down these items, as well as the performer names. (Bear in mind that some of these recordings may resurface from time to time as budget-priced reissues under different catalog numbers.)  Discs that are found to be out of print do appear from time to time on eBay or in the inventories of used CD dealers, so the reader may have better luck with a local secondhand dealer in such cases than with sellers of in-print recordings.


Good luck!





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Vocal Works


  • J.S. Bach: Magnificat/C.P.E. Bach: Magnificat. Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, directed by Philip Ledger. LONDON JUBILEE 421 148-2.  Emanuel's Magnificat, Wq. 215/H. 772, dating from 1749, is paired with his father's very different setting of the same text. The J.S. Bach performance in this 1976 recording is, in my opinion, a bit on the stodgy side, but the performance of Emanuel's work is magnificent. (One caveat: this budget-priced reissue lacks the Latin text and English translation of the "Magnificat" in the enclosed booklet.)
  • Sacred Songs (Selections from Wq. 197-8 [H. 749, 752]).  Klaus Mertens, baritone; Ludger Rémy, fortepiano.  CPO 999 708-2.   This disk contains twenty-two songs Emanuel wrote to texts by C.C. Sturm, a Hamburg pastor, in two collections which were a terrific success for the original publishers.  The poems, with such titles as “Prayer of the crucified Jesus for His enemies,” “God’s grandeur in nature,” “Thoughts of death,” and “Judgment day,” deal with subjects which are illuminated and underscored by the composer in a remarkable way, and the performers give full measures of sincerity and commitment to beautiful effect.
  • Another remarkable recording by the same team of Mertens and Rémy is Lieder & Oden (CPO 999 549-2), featuring a mixture of sacred and secular songs and concluding with the fascinating “Fantasy in C Minor with Hamlet’s Monologue,” the result of C.P.E.’s friend H.W. von Gerstenberg matching a pre-existing Bach fantasy (Wq. 63.6/H. 75) with a paraphrase of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy. 
  • Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, Wq. 240/H. 777.  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, directed by Philippe Herreweghe. VIRGIN CLASSICS VC 7 91498-2. Quite simply, this oratorio, mentioned above, is one of the most superb pieces of religious music ever composed. Where Sebastian's St. Matthew Passion had ended, with the burial of Jesus, Emanuel begins, taking us from the solemn stillness of the grave holding the body through the Resurrection and on to the Ascension, which is celebrated in a magnificent concluding chorus. The solo numbers are remarkable, too--especially Peter Harvey's rendition of the bass aria "Ihr Tore Gottes"! Both the music and the performance are magnificent from beginning to end. 
  • Die Israeliten in die Wüste, Wq. 238/H. 775. Corona et Cappella Coloniensis, directed by William Christie. HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 901321. This work, about Moses’ dealings with the murmuring Israelites in the wilderness, is to me a rather more “of its time” piece than Die Auferstehung; Israeliten includes several virtuoso pieces for the “First and Second Israelite Women” soloists. But there is a great deal of beautiful music here, particularly in the choruses.



  • The Symphonies for Strings, Wq. 182/H. 657-62. The English Concert, directed by Trevor Pinnock. ARCHIV 415 300-2. This set of six symphonies was commissioned from Emanuel by Baron van Swieten, who specifically instructed the composer to "let himself go entirely" without worrying about difficulties of performance. Emanuel especially goes wild in the unfettered 5th Symphony in B Minor. If you thought all late 18th century music was as mannerly as a Mozart serenade, this disk will knock your socks off!
  • Five Sinfonias (Symphonies Wq. 178, 173, 175, 174, and 180/H. 653, 648, 650, 649, & 655). Les Amis de Philippe, directed by Ludger Rémy, CPO 999 418-2. Another fine disc from Rémy, containing the best of Emanuel’s Berlin-period symphonies.
  • 8 Symphonies, 3 Quartets. The Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Christopher Hogwood. L’OISEAU LYRE 455 715-2. A double-disc set with Hogwood’s take on the Wq. 182 symphonies, along with two other symphonies written in Berlin and the three quartets Wq. 93-5/H. 537-9 and the Fantasy Wq. 59 no. 6/H. 284. Somewhat different from Pinnock’s approach above, but I have grown to like Hogwood’s reading very much.
  • Symphonies 1-4, Cello Concerto in A. The English Concert, directed by Andrew Manze. HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 907403. This 2006 release features the Four “Orchestral Symphonies” of Wq. 183/H. 663-6 and the Cello Concerto in A, Wq. 172/H. 439. Manze and his ensemble turn in a very satisfying rendition of these works, which is interestingly different from the approach of Pinnock to Emmanuel's other significant set of symphonies a quarter century before. For more of my comments, please see my December 29. 2006 blog post on this recording.


Keyboard Music


  • Prussian and Württemberg Sonatas. Bob van Asperen, harpsichord. TELDEC 9031-77623-2. Emanuel's two most famous sets of keyboard sonatas. Joseph Haydn later testified that, at his first encounter with a set of Emanuel's clavier sonatas (probably one of these), he was unable to tear himself from the keyboard until he had played through them all!
  • Six Keyboard Sonatas for Harpsichord and Fortepiano (Wq. 65/5, 65/20, 62/12, 65/44, 65/47, & 65/48/H. 13, 51, 66, 211, 248, & 280). Carole Cerasi, harpsichord and fortepiano.  METRONOME MET CD 1032. Here is a well-chosen selection of C.P.E. sonatas from each decade of his composing life. This was only the second solo disc of the young keyboardist Carole Cerasi, and she has continued to release worthy recordings including a fine one of J.S. Bach’s English Suites.
  • Keyboard Works, Volumes 1, 2, and 3. Preethi de Silva, fortepiano and harpsichord. MUSICAL HERITAGE SOCIETY 513016T, 513667Y, and 514032K. This series was projected as a recording of all six volumes of Emanuel’s Clavier-Sonaten für Kenner und Liebhaber, but for reasons unexplained (though easily surmised since MHS subsequently sold its assets to a company called Passionato, which itself vanished in 2013), only three discs appeared, covering Kenner und Liebhaber III, V, VI, and half of II, along with two sonatas (Wq. 65/16 and 65/17, or H. 46 and 47). That is a dreadful shame because the Sri Lanka-born Ms. de Silva is a standout performer of Kenner und Liebhaber, which as a complete set has been underrepresented to date on recordings. (In December 2013, a version on Brilliant Classics performed by Pieter-Jan Belder appeared, which is not without merit, but I find Mr. Belder’s approach to lack the panache of Ms. de Silva’s.) If you can find the MHS discs via second-hand sellers, I recommend you snatch them up! Fortunately, Preethi de Silva remains active and is now recording for a label called First Hand Records.




  • Harpsichord Concertos Wq. 30, 37, & 38 (H. 440, 448, & 447).  Les Amis de Philippe; Ludger Rémy, director and soloist.  CPO 999 350-2.  Also Harpsichord Concertos Wq. 3, 32, 44, & 45 (H. 405, 442, 477, & 478) by the same performers.  CPO 999 566-2.   Superlative performances of the composer’s still little known keyboard concertos, which Maestro Rémy has painstakingly transcribed from the autographs in the Berlin State Library; unfortunately, few of this composer’s keyboard concerti have been available in printed editions two centuries after his death—though with the advent of the new Complete Works edition of C.P.E.’s music, that situation has been gradually changing.  
  • “Hamburg Concertos” (Six Harpsichord Concertos, Wq. 43/H. 471-6).  Melante Amsterdam; Bob van Asperen, director and soloist.  VIRGIN VERITAS x2 7243 5 61913 2 7.   These six concertos are delightful music which should be better known, and Asperen and his ensemble are quite up to the job of bringing back the sounds of Bach’s Hamburg.
  • Double Concertos Wq. 46 & 47 (H. 408 & 479), Sonatina Wq. 109 (H. 453). Collegium Aureum, various soloists.  DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 05472 77410 2.  This reissue disc of Emanuel’s final concerto, H. 479 for harpsichord, fortepiano, and orchestra, is quite good, and the disc is filled out with a 1762 sonatina and the composer’s other double-keyboard concerto (the latter with Alan Curtis and Gustav Leonhardt as soloists).
  • Bachiana: Double Concertos. Musica Antiqua Köln, directed by Reinhard Goebel. ARCHIV 471 579-2. Here is another fine recording of H. 479, rather more bracing and aggressive than Collegium Aureum’s, and including concertos by three of Emanuel’s brothers.
  • Konzerte für 2 Cembali. Andreas Staier, Robert Hill, Musica Antiqua Köln, directed by Reinhard Goebel. ARCHIV 419 256-2. This 1986 release contains two works by W.F. Bach (Falck 10 and Falck 46) and the double concerto of Emanuel (Wq. 46/H. 408). The C.P.E. concerto is given the most spirited reading I have yet heard of this important early work. Connoisseurs not able to find the original issue of this disc may want the 2014 reissue C.P.E. Bach: Symphonies & Concertos (DG ARCHIV 0289 479 2499 9), which includes this entire recording, as well as the Trevor Pinnock Wq. 182 one mentioned above under “Symphonies.”


Of Special Note

·         The Complete Keyboard Concertos. Miklós Spányi, various keyboard instruments. BIS CD 707 (Vol. 1) etc.  This, one of the most ambitious projects in recent years, was at last completed in January 2014 with the release of Vol. 20 (BIS-1967). I have obtained these volumes with occasional difficulty; discs from Bis, a Swedish label, are not as readily available as releases from the big labels, but are becoming easier to find as time goes by.  Budapest-born Spányi, like Rémy above, has gone back to the original autographs and earliest source materials, but is even more ambitious in recording all the keyboard concertos and sonatinas. (I should mention that Spányi is also engaged in recording the complete solo keyboard music, a series which as of October 2013 had reached its 27th volume.) His presentation is more lyrical than flashy (compare his Wq. 3/H. 405 on Vol. 1 with Rémy’s for CPO), and his alternation between harpsichord, fortepiano, and tangent piano shows great sensitivity to the requirements of each concerto. This set promises to be the definitive recording of the complete keyboard concertos for many years to come, informed as it is by informed and intelligent musicianship, and with splendid playing by Spányi and by Concerto Armonico in Volumes 1-13 under the joint direction of Spányi and Peter Szüts. Starting with Vol. 14, Spányi joins forces with Opus X, a Finnish ensemble led by Petri Tapio Mattson, but on the last three discs Concerto Armonico again backs the soloist. A full round of sustained applause is due to Mr. Spányi for unearthing so many of these works for the first time in over 200 years, and for bringing them to life so splendidly.


(Last update of this page: 29 Mar 2014)  

© 2002-2014 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.