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Sonata in E major, H39 Wq62/5

'Bach (CPE): Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2' (CDA67908)
Bach (CPE): Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 2
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Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Andantino
Movement 3: Vivace di molto

Sonata in E major, H39 Wq62/5
The first movement of the Sonata in E major H39 is in rounded binary form (ABA’). Sudden contrasts between forte and piano, often bracketed by rests, form an essential thematic component of the movement. Although one can certainly realize these contrasts on a two-manual harpsichord (with the forte sections played on coupled keyboards and the piano sections using only a single keyboard), it is also possible that Bach envisioned this sonata for the fortepiano. During the 1740s Frederick commissioned several pianos from builder Gottfried Silbermann; we know that J S Bach tried one when he visited his son at Frederick’s court in 1747. This movement, like the opening one of H37, contains two rhythmically contrasting motifs, but in this case the contrast comes in the form of a brief, dramatic interruption right before the end of each of the A, B and A’ sections. In these places, the rhythm slows dramatically and the dynamic drops to piano. All three subsections also feature passages with large forte chords that suggest the music of Domenico Scarlatti.

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

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