BACH, C.P.E.: Keyboard Sonatas
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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788): Keyboard Sonatas
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was born in 1714in Weimar, the second son by his first wife of Johann Sebastian Bach, thennewly appointed Konzertmeister to the Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst, He attended theLatin School in Cothen, where his father became Court Kapellmeister in 1717,and in 1723 moved with the family to Leipzig, where he became a pupil at theThomasschule, on the staff of which his father had become Cantor. In 1731he matriculated as a law student at the University of Leipzig, embarking on acourse of study that had been denied his father. He continued these studies atthe University of Frankfurt an der Oder and in 1738, rejecting the chance ofaccompanying a young gentleman on a tour abroad, he entered the service of theCrown Prince of Prussia at Ruppin as harpsichordist, moving with the court toBerlin in 1740, on the accession to the throne of the Prince, better knownsubsequently as Frederick the Great. In Berlin and at Potsdam Bach,confirmed as Court Harpsichordist, had the unenviable task of accompanyingevening concerts at which the King, an able enough amateur flautist, was afrequent performer. His colleagues, generally of a more conservative tendency,included the distinguished flautist and theorist Quantz, the Benda and Graunbrothers and other musicians of similar reputation, while men of letters at thecourt included Lessing. In 1755 he applied for his father's old positionat the Thomasschule in Leipzig, but was unsuccessful, his father's former pupilDoles being appointed in succession to Johann Sebastian's immediate successor,Gottlob Harrer. It was not until 1768 that he was able to escape from aposition that he had found increasingly uncongenial, succeeding his godfatherTelemann as Cantor at the Johanneum in Hamburg, a city that offered much wideropportunities than Leipzig. Bach spent the last twenty years of his life inHamburg. In Berlin he had won a wider reputation with his Versuch??ber die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (Essay on the True Art of ClavierPlaying) and was regarded as the leading keyboard-player of his day. In Hamburghe continued to enjoy his established position as a man of wide generaleducation, able to mix on equal terms with the leading writers of hisgeneration and no mere working musician. He died in 1788, his death mourned bya generation that thought of him as more important than his father, dubbed"the old periwig" by his sons. As a composer Carl Philipp EmanuelBach was prolific, writing a considerable quantity of music for the harpsichordand the instrument he much favoured, the clavichord. His music exemplifies thetheories expounded in his Versuch, with a tendency to use dramatic andrhetorical devices, a fine command of melody and a relatively sparing use ofthe contrapuntal elements that had by now come to seem merely academic. Inmusical terms he is associated with Lessing's theories of sentiment, Empfindsamkeit,the complement of Enlightenment rationalism.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's compositionsnaturally include a considerable quantity of keyboard music. Some eighteencollections were published in his life-time and, while he failed to pleasegeneral popular taste in Vienna and South Germany, he nevertheless won theadmiration of the greatest composers, of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Theinfluence on Haydn, in particular, is attested by that composer's earlybiographers and is, in any case, apparent from his own keyboard sonatas.
The Sonata in G major, Wq. 65/22,was written in Berlin 1748 and was published in 1768 in a collection ofsonatas, C.P.E. Bachs, Nichelmanns und Handel's Sonaten und Fugen. Theinclusion of sonatas by Christoph Nichelmann is a reminder that this composerhad worked in Leipzig under the supervision of J.S. Bach and had been a pupilof the latter's eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, subsequently moving to Berlin,where he studied with Frederick the Great's favourite composers, the flautistQuantz and the Berlin Kapellmeister C.H. Graun. From 1745 he served with C.P.E.
Bach as harpsichordist at the court, leaving in 1756. Bach's sonata had a wideenough circulation in manuscript and a number of contemporary copies survive.
The first movement opens with a forthright thematic figure, moving to materialof a gentler cast.?á The opening themestarts the central development, after the repetition of the exposition. The Gminor slow movement unwinds a triplet triple-metre theme, with the simplestaccompaniment, and is followed by a final Allegro in a lively 3/8 metre.
The Sonata in A major, Wq. 65/37,bears the date of 1763 and was written in Berlin. The opening Allegro followsthe expected formal pattern, with an exposition modulating to the dominant anda central development with characteristic keyboard figuration. The final sectionrecapitulates the material, with its ascending arpeggios. The following Andantema non troppo, in A minor, achieves its moving effect through the simplestmeans, with a poignant melody, lightly accompanied. Melancholy is dispelled inthe final Allegro di molto, with its continuing triplet accompanimentfiguration.
Bach's Sonata in A major, Wq. 70/1,was written in I 758, while he and his family were staying at the house ofKapellmeister Johann Friedrich Fasch at Zerbst, where he had moved during thewars in which his patron was then engaged, as Russian forces approached Berlin.
The sonata was published in Nuremberg in 1762-1763 in the collection (CEuvresmelees contenant VI sonates pour le clavessin d'autant plus cel?¿brescompositeurs, VoI.IX, for which it was slightly varied, and is also foundin a more elaborate version included in a manuscript that contains two othersonatas for the organ. The dynamic directions on this version, here recorded,suggest the use of a stringed keyboard instrument, although it could also beplayed on the organ. The simpler version of the sonata (Wq. 65/32) iselaborated considerably, with the repetition of the exposition written out inan embellished form, a clear enough suggestion of the expected form ofcontemporary practice, with repeated exposition and repeated development andrecapitulation. The indications of the nature of the slow movement are clearenough. This A minor Andante con tenerezza is a poignant recitative, ofwhich, it might be said, Johann Sebastian Bach was also capable, if in a morefrivolous mood, as in the Lament of his Capriccio on thedeparture of his brother. The final Allegretto lacks the extraembellishment of the first movement in its later version, offering a conclusionthat suggests clearly enough the use of the stringed keyboard rather than theorgan.
The Sonata in B flat major, Wq. 62/16,was written in Berlin in 1757 and published in Part V of the Nuremberg (CEuvresmelees in 1760. The first Allegro starts boldly, moving forward to asecond subject of dynamic contrast. The development is followed by a shorterrecapitulation. The G minor Andante finds a place for a more reflectivemood, its principal theme embellished in repetition. The Allegretto, withits two repeated sections, ends the sonata.
With a manuscript copy found, as with somany other sonatas, in the library of Princess Amalia of Prussia, the King'ssister, the Sonata in E minor, Wq. 65/30, bears the date 1756. As itskey suggests, the opening Allegretto is gently reflective rather thanebullient. The Andante provides a contrast, with its key of G major, itsaccompanying quavers giving the impression of gr