Tal Soker

A Study of the Relationship between Form and Schemata in Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Berlin Keyboard Concertos

During his years of service as court musician in Berlin and Potsdam, Bach produced more than three dozen keyboard concertos, some of which are available in various distinct revised versions. Previous studies of these works have often overlooked the complex relationship existing between Bach’s concertos and information available in contemporary northern German theoretical treatises. Instead, scholars have sought to establish Bach as the linking figure leading from the late baroque to the classical concerto (through the mediation of his younger brother, Johann Christian). But Carl Philipp’s concertos seem to defy any attempt at analysis in terms of a ‘classical’ sonata-concerto form. In recent years, however, as earlier historiographical models of 18th-century music have waned, and with the advent of historically informed analytical methods, a reassessment of Bach’s works is within our reach.
In this paper I eschew models focusing on thematic contrast originating in the 19th century in approaching Bach’s concertos, employing a historically informed analytical method instead. Drawing primarily on Heinrich Christoph Koch’s theory of ‘interpunction form’ as well as on recent studies of 18th-century voice-leading schemata (Gjerdingen 2007, Sanguinetti 2012), I shall first survey the various interpunction schemes appearing in Bach’s expositions. Subsequently, I will proceed to explore, by means of quantitative methods, the extent to which these layouts correlate with foreground voice-leading schemata and scripts. Based on the results of this analysis I shall propose a more refined understanding of Bach’s often deformational compositional choices, with a view to elucidating the ‘original genius’ that his contemporaries found in his works.