The Sonata in C minor H121 (Wq65/31) dates from 1757, more than a decade after H37 and H39. In this dark work the contrasts between forte and piano phrases that were so important in H39 are further amplified and extended. All three movements contain such contrasts—creating a unifying theme within the sonata as a whole. However, the dialogue created through continuous dynamic oscillation is most poignant in the slow middle movement, marked Andantino pathetico. Here Bach sets up a rhetorical interchange between extroverted forte exclamations that suggest large orchestral tuttis and introspective quiet passages that evoke the reflections of a lone solo voice. The movement consists of an alternation between these two elements, much like the slow movement of Beethoven’s fourth Piano Concerto. H121 was published posthumously in 1792. Might Beethoven, who acknowledged his indebtedness to C P E Bach (and whose concerto movement has often been compared to Orfeo’s battle with the furies in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice
), perhaps have known Bach’s sonata? The orchestral character of the forte passages in this movement is reinforced in the outer movements of the sonata—particularly in several strong declamatory passages in octaves.
from notes by Leta Miller © 2012
University of California, Santa Cruz