Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach: Solfeggietto in C minor, H. 220

CPE Bach generally wrote in the more “modern” stile galante, not the contrapuntal high Baroque of his famous father Johann Sebastian Bach. However, in this Solfeggieto from 1766, he harkens back to the earlier Baroque style. Most of the piece has a single note sounding at a time, with running sixteenth notes that outline harmonic movement. The implied harmony generally changes every two beats, on beats 1 and 3. For instance, in the first measure the implied harmony is C minor followed by G major. For dramatic effect, at the climax of the piece (measures 21–24) the composer stops changing the harmony every two beats and instead sustains the harmony through the entire measure. The technical challenge is to pass the sixteenth notes from hand to hand and maintain absolute evenness in touch and rhythm. This can only be accomplished by first practicing slowly.  A listener should not be able to tell which hand is playing at any given moment. Because of the nature of this music we recommend slow practice, hands together rather than hands separately. As you master the piece begin to increase the tempo, but make sure that whatever tempo you play remains steady throughout.

Do not rush this music, a tendency of student pianists in playing quick moving notes. It would be a terrible mistake to use any pedal in places where only one note at a time is played. Though a valid approach would be to use no pedal throughout the entire piece, some pianists may wish to experiment with light pedal, with the half notes and whole notes in the bass line as a signal for pedaling.

–Richard Walters

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