While Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s chamber music does not have the range and impact of his solo keyboard and orchestral music, its artistic value is not in the least inferior to those two categories of works. The division, typical for keyboard music, into demanding large-scale works for connoisseurs on the one hand and technically less demanding compositions of predominantly smaller forms for amateurs on the other, also applies to Bach’s chamber music. Mixed in are diverse functional pieces, apparently written for specific ceremonial occasions during the Berlin and Hamburg years, as well as an assortment of works for mechanical instruments. As in the keyboard music, at the center of this first category stands the sonata, to whose development Bach made significant contributions. Within this group of works, which spans the whole of Bach’s creative period, the transformation from the baroque continuo sonata to the accompanied keyboard sonata and the classical keyboard trio is gradually achieved.1

The majority of the works in series II belong to the sphere of private or semi-public music-making. The early compositions (sonatas for one or two solo instruments and basso continuo) may have been conceived for the Collegia Musica, in which Bach participated during his years at Leipzig and Frankfurt an der Oder, or other student musical societies. The compositions of the Berlin period were informed by his role as chamber musician to the Prussian court, and at the same time reflect the world of private musical societies which began to blossom in Berlin from the time of Frederick II’s accession to the throne in 1740, and which after the Seven Years’ War developed into an important pillar of the musical life of the city. The chamber music output of the Hamburg years, apart from diverse single pieces and smaller collections, is distinguished by the printed collections of accompanied keyboard sonatas (Wq 89, 90, 91) as well as the quartets (Wq 93, 94, 95) intended for print.2

Bach’s estate catalogue, the “Nachlaß-Verzeichnis” (NV 1790), divides the chamber music into headings: “Trii” (pp. 36–42; 46 items), “Soli” (pp. 48–51; 19 items) and “Quartetten” (pp. 51–52; 3 items); further works are found under “Kleinere Stücke” (pp. 52–54) and “Einige vermischte Stücke” (pp. 65–66). The placement of the trios in NV 1790 right after the keyboard solos and the concertos denotes them as representative of the chamber music genre. Apart from the “12 kleine Stücke mit 2 und 3 Stimmen” (12 little pieces with 2 or 3 parts; Wq 81) assembled in no. 24, all the works composed before 1759 (nos. 1–23) are genuine trio sonatas. These pieces all follow—independent of their specific instrumentation—the abstract guiding principles of the Triosatz, which was elevated to the ideal of compositional teaching in both the theory and practice of instrumental chamber music in the first half of the eighteenth century; for here linear counterpoint, resonant harmony and singable melody could have complete synthesis. Consistent with this are the variations in instrumentation found in the original sources and early prints, which will be more thoroughly discussed in volumes II/2 and II/3.

Judging from the dating in NV 1790, Bach had already begun composing trio sonatas in Leipzig;3 however, these works—with the exception of a single piece (Wq 145/BWV 1036)—are extant today only in substantially revised versions from the Berlin period.4 Another series of pieces was written toward the end of the 1740s, and a third around the middle of the 1750s. First attempts at an idiomatic handling of the instruments are found in the four sonatas for keyboard and violin (Wq 75–78) from 1763. In the late trios, as well as in the three stylistically related quartets, the keyboard instrument stands in the center of the musical dialogue, while the melody instruments are allotted subordinate roles.

The chamber music is organized in the following volumes in series II:

1. Solo Sonatas
2. Trio Sonatas
3. Keyboard Trios
4. Accompanied Sonatas
5. Quartets and Miscellaneous Chamber Music

The “Soli” comprise sixteen sonatas for one melody instrument and basso continuo, mostly belonging to the Frankfurt and early Berlin period,5 as well as a sonata for unaccompanied flute, Wq 132. (The late Sonata in G Major, Wq 133 from 1786 stands isolated chronologically.) NV 1790 (pp. 48–51) lists thirteen sonatas for flute, and one sonata each for oboe, viola da gamba, harp, and violoncello (the latter, Wq 138, is lost).

The “Trii” have been divided into two volumes according to genre. Volume II/2 contains the trio sonatas for two solo instruments and basso continuo; volume II/3 contains sonatas for one solo instrument and obbligato keyboard. The distinction between these genres is blurred by the fact that Bach himself arranged some of the former works for obbligato keyboard. Volume II/4 contains the accompanied keyboard sonatas.

Volume II/5 contains the quartets for two solo instruments and obbligato keyboard, as well as a miscellany of works, mostly “kleinere Stücke.” These encompass short sonatas, duets, dances, and separate movements for wind instruments or for smaller or larger ensembles, as well as the small-scale compositions for mechanical instruments. The numerous interconnections between these miscellaneous pieces and other groups of works will be thoroughly explored in this volume.

Peter Wollny
General Editor

1. Ernst Fritz Schmid, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach und seine Kammermusik (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1931), and David Schulenberg, The Instrumental Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1984).

2. Bach designated his works according to the number of independent voices, so that a “trio” could be two solo instruments and basso continuo or one solo instrument plus obbligato keyboard. Similarly, his “quartets” are for two solo instruments plus obbligato keyboard, that is, three players but four independent lines.

3. This group of seven works (NV 1790, pp. 36–37) is probably supplemented by the “Trio für die Violine, Bratsche und Baß, mit Johann Sebastian Bach gemeinschaftlich verfertigt” (Trio for violin, viola and bass, composed jointly with Johann Sebastian Bach; NV 1790, p. 65).

4. See Ulrich Leisinger and Peter Wollny, “ ‘Altes Zeug von mir’: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bachs kompositorisches Schaffen vor 1740,” Bach-Jahrbuch 79 (1993): 127–204.

5. The first two solos (Wq 134 and 135) are not dated in NV 1790; they might precede the first dated piece (Wq 123, composed in 1735).