Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Andantino
Movement 3: Vivace di molto
H39’s slow movement, in the tonic minor, comprises two sections, nearly identical in length. It begins like a simple air, but with characteristic harmonic surprises. As in the opening movement, Bach here indulges in dramatic interjections at the end of each half—in this case consisting of dotted figures, played fortissimo, that suggest the accompanied recitatives of Baroque opera. In this movement, as in many others, the interjections could conceivably be removed entirely, creating a more continuous series of symmetrical phrases, but this would rob the piece of its most dramatic moments.
H39 ends with a Vivace di molto movement in 3/4 metre. At the time Vivace indicated a slower tempo than Allegro and Bach frequently chose to end his sonatas with galant movements in moderate tempi. Finales marked Cantabile, Vivace, Allegretto, Andantino, or Minuetto occur in more than forty of his keyboard sonatas, spread throughout his career, as well as in ten sonatas for flute, oboe, or viola da gamba from the 1730s and 1740s. Most of these movements are in triple metre and even those not specifically designated as ‘minuets’ often make reference to this prevalent dance form. H39’s finale opens with a rhythmic figure found frequently in Bach’s Vivace finales (dotted quaver and two demisemiquavers, followed by a minim). Any link to the minuet, however, soon proves illusory as heavy chords, surprising harmonic progressions, and rhythmic interruptions create an ironic parody of the old aristocratic dance. As in the opening movement, Bach inserts a slower section near the end of each half of the movement.
from notes by Leta Miller © 2012
University of California, Santa Cruz