The twelve sonatinas for one or two keyboards and orchestra constitute a distinct segment of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s oeuvre, standing between chamber and orchestral music and between the suite and the concerto. The “Nachlaß-Verzeichnis” (NV 1790, pp. 46–48) emphasizes the special position of these works by treating them separately. They originated in rapid succession in the years 1762–64, near the end of Bach’s time in Berlin. There are no comparable works in his previous output, and he added no new ones later, though he continued to revise the sonatinas during his years in Hamburg. There are also no exact parallels to these sonatinas among the works of earlier composers in Berlin or in North Germany generally; this genre seems to be Bach’s creation.1 He may have chosen sonatina to describe these compositions because it had become little used by 1762. Bach’s usage refers primarily to the older ensemble sonatina (familiar examples include the “Sonatina” that introduces Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106, and the published sets of “Suonatine” and “Neue Sonatinen” of Georg Philipp Telemann). The later meaning of sonatina as a small and undemanding sonata for keyboard only became established in the latter part of the century, and Bach used it only in the last years of his life, if at all.2

Formally, each of Bach’s sonatinas consists of two or three movements in the same key (Wq 107/104, with one movement in D minor and two in F major, is the exception). This pattern is common in Bach’s keyboard suites and chamber music, but not in his concertos. The individual sonatina movements usually either are in large binary design or consist of colorful successions of sections in dance forms with literal or varied da capos, an approach that Bach otherwise uses only in his keyboard suites. Many individual movements or sections originated from smaller compositions of the middle and late 1750s: the short chamber pieces in two and three parts, Wq 81; a few keyboard sonatas; and, especially, the “petites pièces” for keyboard. The newly composed movements and sections usually share the pleasing and accessible quality of these prior works, a novel feature of Bach’s style in his last Berlin years that contrasts with the manner of his concertos and more ambitious sonatas.

Bach’s incorporation of music composed for amateur circles and the stylistic accessibility of the sonatinas are indications that, at least initially, he intended them too for a broader musical public. His publication in 1764–66 of the sonatinas Wq 106–108 (three of the minority that contain no preexistent material) is yet another sign of this intention. These works are scored for keyboard, two flutes, and four-part strings; the keyboard parts, which require only modest technique, are entirely written out and largely double the accompanying parts. The reprises in the binary designs are literally repeated.

As noted in NV 1790 (p. 48), however, the three sonatinas Bach published were later entirely altered (nachhero ganz verändert). Indeed, the versions of them that survive in the manuscript sources from Bach’s circle are so different that all three works received a second number from Wotquenne (Wq 101, 104, and 105, respectively; these three versions are included along with Wq 106–108 in CPEB:CW, III/11). An examination of the sources for the sonatinas as a group suggests that the unpublished sonatinas were also revised to a greater or lesser degree. This process of revision took place largely, if not entirely, after Bach moved to Hamburg in 1768, continuing through much of the 1770s and, for one or two works, until the end of his life. Bach’s own copies of all twelve sonatinas survive almost intact, as do authorized copies made from them. There are also traces of the process of revision in some of the sources. Though the only surviving sources authorized by Bach for the early versions of any of the sonatinas are the three prints, early versions of Wq 96, 109, and 110 survive in secondary manuscripts. The later states of Wq 96 and 109 incorporate several new sections, and everywhere Bach elaborated on the substance of the early versions.

As with some of the Berlin symphonies and concertos, Bach expanded the instrumentation of the sonatinas to take advantage of the augmented resources available to him in Hamburg. All the sonatinas have horn parts in their final versions; Wq 110 has a second keyboard part; and Wq 109 in its final state has the largest scoring of any of Bach’s instrumental works: two keyboards, three trumpets, timpani, two horns, two flutes, two oboes, obbligato bassoon, and five-part strings, outshining even the four symphonies Wq 183. The keyboard parts have been greatly altered, with continuo in the more heavily scored sections (except in Wq 98) and figuration elsewhere; a few new passages have been added. This gives some sense of tutti-solo alternation, though none of the movements shows the ritornello structure of a concerto movement. In keeping with the interest in varied reprises shown in Bach’s keyboard music of the 1760s (notably in the sonatas Wq 50 and the shorter pieces Wq 113 and 114), the reprises and da capos of the sonatinas are frequently varied. The technical requirements for the keyboard player are greater in the late versions, at times equalling the level of virtuosity required for the concertos. In the extreme cases, such as Wq 109, modest salon pieces for amateurs have been transformed into large concert works for accomplished professionals. By contrast with the early versions of the sonatinas, some of which were widely known, Bach seems to have limited the distribution of certain later versions to a few members of his own circle.

The present edition is the first to present the sonatinas as a complete body. They are published in volumes 11–13 of series III as follows:

11. Keyboard Sonatinas from Prints
12. Keyboard Sonatinas from Manuscript Sources
13. Sonatinas for Two Keyboards

This body of music resists any simple definition, and partly for that reason has been little studied. Because of its protean nature, this group of works bears on many aspects of Bach’s art, both public and private. A proper consideration of the sonatinas is essential to a full understanding of the orchestral music of the latter half of Bach’s career.

Peter Wollny
General Editor

1. A “Sonatina a Cemb[alo] mit Accompagnem[ent]” by Duchess Anna Amalia of Weimar was probably modeled on Bach’s works of this type (cf. D-WRa, Mus IIf:1). A now-lost manuscript of the piece was in Bach’s library; see BA 1789, no. 259.

2. The later usage of sonatina appeared for the first time in a solo keyboard publication by Giuseppe Antonio Paganelli, Divertissement de le beau sexe ou six sonatines, of 1757; see William S. Newman, The Sonata in the Classic Era, 3rd ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1983), 186–90. The term appears in Bach’s oeuvre in connection with two groups of works. NV 1790 (pp. 2–3) refers to the six early keyboard sonatas Wq 64/1–6 as “Sonatinas”; these works originally seem to have been called sonatas, and it is not certain from the surviving sources when and by whom the term was changed. See Horn, 186–88. The Sechs neue Clavier-Stücke, Wq 62/7–12, appeared in print under the title “Sonatine nuove,” but it is not clear that this title was given by Bach rather than the publisher Schwickert; see CPEB:CW, I/3, xix. On the terminological issues regarding C.P.E. Bach’s sonatinas, see Fisher 2008.