This is the only keyboard sonata by Bach that is, as far as we know, both totally original (several others use material by Reinken) and not a transcription (as is his Sonata in D minor, BWV964). It could also be named ‘Toccata’, as its form is very similar to the keyboard pieces of that title, except for the omission of an opening flourish. The Sonata has five sections of which two are contrasting fugues. It opens with a very instrumental-like movement using antiphonal entries and with that feeling of festivity that so often comes with the key of D major in Bach. Then suddenly arrives an F sharp major chord, announcing a brief improvisation that seems to require the use of organ pedals to sustain the bass notes (I make use of the middle or sostenuto pedal to do the trick). This leads us nicely into the first fugue which is in B minor. Despite its rather percussive subject (four repeated notes) it remains calm and doesn’t get too excited. Another brief passage marked adagio uses the same musical material repeated many times to take us to the point where Bach wants to go (as he does in both the D minor and F sharp minor Toccatas). Finally we have the closing fugue, now firmly back in D major. Its title is intriguing: Thema all’ imitatio Gallina Cuccu
(‘Theme in imitation of the chicken and the cuckoo’). And yes, there is the hen clucking away in the subject, and the cuckoo doing its thing in the countersubject. By the end, it’s quite a noisy farmyard! This was not the first time a composer had written a piece using bird-calls: Frescobaldi evidently wrote a Capriccio sopra il Cucco
in 1624. It may not be Bach’s greatest inspiration, but it is amusing and brings this Sonata to a lively conclusion.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2004