In contrast to the fiery tones of the first sonata, the Sonata in A flat major reveals C P E Bach’s gift for imitating the nuances of the human voice through the medium of the harpsichord. A rising opening melody is followed by a quick second theme whose intensity acts as a contrast to the virtual trio of singers heard at the beginning. Bach’s uniquely wayward musical personality is evident at certain points, such as the ending of the first half of the first movement when the music moves into a minor tonality and the emotionally charged cantabile is given dramatic impetus by the use of dissonance. Contrasts of mood are further explored in the second movement, a touching piece where the flittering between unrelated motifs almost ‘decomposes’ into quasi-recitative. Bach’s literary influences are apparent here, as he blurs the line between prosody and poetry. A sense of declamation is again evident in the final Allegro. Here the master of the intense and dramatic shows us that he has an equally developed sense of humour. What this lively dance for the fingers lacks in ‘Bachian’ counterpoint it gains in a very different kind of interplay—namely, that of timbres and Affekts.
from notes by Mahan Esfahani © 2014