Hyperion Records

Sonata in B flat major, H32
1742/3, published in 1744; No 4 of Württemberg Sonatas, Wq49

'Bach (CPE): Württemberg Sonatas' (CDA67995)
Bach (CPE): Württemberg Sonatas
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Movement 1: Un poco allegro
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Allegro

Sonata in B flat major, H32
If the first and third sonatas of the Württemberg set represent the initial stirrings of Sturm und Drang in keyboard music, then the Sonata in B flat major is the apotheosis of all that is sublime and charming. Lest we think that such qualities lack profundity, we should remember that the ‘sublime’ was, in its most seemingly effortless guise, a trait highly sought after by composers of this time. The opening theme has nothing of the angular gestures associated with German music, but possesses the easy clarity of Bohemian and Slavonic folksong—perhaps C P E Bach heard such music in the homes of his Berlin colleagues, the brothers Franz and Johann Benda. Whatever the origins of such a style, the melodic narrative gives way to playfulness at cadences and other points of structural punctuation, and occasional lapses into ‘sadness’ or sentimentality quickly defer to the lightness of the opening bars.

The second movement uses Baroque fugato as a frame for typically empfindsame melodic sighs. The movement is notable for its marvellous sense of stillness. One recalls Charles Burney’s famous description of Emanuel Bach improvising at the keyboard: ‘[He] looked like one inspired. His eyes were fixed, his underlip fell, and drops of effervescence distilled from his countenance.’

The final Allegro shows Bach’s great sense of wit and timing, as the pauses between phrases are specifically notated. Particularly noteworthy is the novel use of brash melodic leaps and block chords in a manner far removed from the polyphonic cantabile of an earlier generation. These elements of humour and drama were not lost on the young Joseph Haydn, who himself attested that he recognized only Emanuel Bach as his prototype. This should not surprise us—this final movement immediately brings to mind the finale of Haydn’s own F major Sonata, Hob. XVI/23 (1773).

from notes by Mahan Esfahani © 2014

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