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C. P. E. Bach, Haydn and the Evolving Keyboard Idioms of the Later Eighteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 February 2024

David Schulenberg*
Wagner College, New York, NY, USA


The long careers of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Joseph Haydn coincided with fundamental transformations in how keyboard instruments were built and played and how composers wrote for them. Haydn's keyboard music probably saw the more profound changes in compositional style, yet C. P. E. Bach and others preceded him in discovering ways to incorporate new keyboard idioms into pieces written for new types of instruments. Bach gradually shifted from writing generic keyboard music to composing in idioms most appropriate to two-manual harpsichords, unfretted clavichords or fortepianos. Haydn likewise began writing in a generic idiom; many works that have been posited as having been meant for the clavichord cannot in fact be assigned clearly to that or any other specific instrument. Although Haydn did eventually turn to writing specifically for the fortepiano, he too made a gradual, and relatively late, transition from a generic approach to one that centred on the grand fortepianos of the late eighteenth century. Bach's influence on Haydn is inseparable from the matter of the keyboard instruments. Although the precise nature and extent of Bach's influence cannot be determined, compositional elements derived by Haydn from Bach's music range from superficial thematic and notational parallelisms to fundamental conceptions of what keyboard music could be or could express.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press

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1 The present essay complements my study ‘C. P. E. Bach's Keyboard Music and the Question of Idiom’, in Bach Perspectives, volume 11, ed. Mary Oleskiewicz (Chicago: Illinois University Press, 2017), 83–112. Three books that have previously considered the same issues are Brown, A. Peter, Joseph Haydn's Keyboard Music: Sources and Style (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986)Google Scholar; Harrison, Bernard, Haydn's Keyboard Music: Studies in Performance Practice (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Maunder, Richard, Keyboard Instruments in Eighteenth-Century Vienna (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Additional writings are cited below. Throughout this article ‘Bach’ refers to C. P. E. Bach; other members of the Bach family are referred to by their full names.

2 No recent scholarly books cover eighteenth-century keyboard instruments generally, but the catalogues of two important museum collections can serve the same purpose: Koster, John, Keyboard Musical Instruments in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1994)Google Scholar and John Henry van der Meer, Martin Elste, Günther Wagner and others, Kielklaviere: Cembali, Spinette, Virginale (Berlin: Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung Preussicher Kulturbesitz, 1991).

3 The six sonatas dedicated to Prussian king Frederick II (‘the Great’) were published in Berlin in 1742. Dates of composition for C. P. E. Bach's works are from the Verzeichniß des musikalischen Nachlasses des verstorbenen Capellmeisters Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Hamburg: Gottlieb Friedrich Schniebes, 1790). A searchable transcription is online at

4 This was recommended by Bach (albeit in a discussion of continuo realization) in his Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen, two volumes (Berlin: author, 1753–1762; modern critical edition by Tobias Plebuch in Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works, volumes 7/1–3 (Los Altos: Packard Humanities Institute, 2011)), volume 2, chapter 29, paragraph 7.

5 Several examples occur in ‘Fremder Mann’, No. 29 from Robert Schumann's Album für die Jugend, Op. 68.

6 See the final movement of Beethoven's ‘Waldstein’ sonata, Op. 59 (Vienna: Bureau des arts et d'industrie[, 1805]).

7 These works take their name from their dedication to the young Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg, who studied with Bach while at Berlin as a guest of Frederick II.

8 The Reprisen-Sonaten are known as such owing to the presence of written-out embellishments for repeated passages. In this concluding sonata of the set, which comprises a single movement in rondo form, the variations occur in the restatements of the main rondo theme.

9 I demonstrated this point in a lecture-recital, ‘A New Voice for the Clavier: C. P. E. Bach and the Changing Idiom of Keyboard Music’, presented at the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, Milwaukee, 8 November 2014.

10 Harrison, Haydn's Keyboard Music, 13, devotes a long footnote (note 48) to refuting assertions of this type.

11 Regarding the works of C. P. E. Bach see John Henry van der Meer, Die klangfarbliche Identität der Klavierwerke Carl Philipp Emanuel Bachs (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing, 1978) and Joel Speerstra, ‘Towards an Identification of the Clavichord Repertoire Among C. P. E. Bach's Solo Keyboard Music: Some Preliminary Conclusions’, in De clavicordio II, ed. Bernard Brauchli, Susan Brauchli and Alberto Galazzo (Magnano: International Centre for Clavichord Studies, 1995), 43–81.

12 Brown, Joseph Haydn's Keyboard Music, 166–170. By ‘accompanied sonata’ is meant a work for leading keyboard with one or more secondary or optional instruments – typically violin and cello, as in the pieces by Haydn and Mozart now known as ‘piano trios’. Haydn, unlike Mozart, left no unambiguously attributed works for keyboard with a single accompanying instrument (violin or flute).

13 Harrison, Haydn's Keyboard Music, 4.

14 On the instruments available to Scarlatti in Portugal and Spain see Koster, John, ‘Towards an Optimal Instrument: Domenico Scarlatti and the New Wave of Iberian Harpsichord Making’, Early Music 35/4 (2007), 573603CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Latcham, Michael, ‘Pianos and Harpsichords for Their Majesties’, Early Music 36/3 (2008), 359396CrossRefGoogle Scholar, especially 372–379.

15 ‘Joseph Haydn und das Clavier: Eine subjektive Einführung’, in Internationales Musikwissenschaftliches Symposium ‘Haydn & das Clavier’ im Rahmen der Internationalen Haydntage Eisenstadt 13.–15. September 2000, ed. Georg Feder and Walter Reicher (Tutzing: Schneider, 2002), 14–15.

16 The most convenient and usefully illustrated discussion of Viennese harpsichords remains Richard Maunder, ‘Viennese Keyboard Instruments, 1750–1790’, in Cordes et claviers au temps de Mozart: Actes des Rencontres Internationales Harmoniques, Lausanne 2006, ed. Thomas Steiner (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010), 113–131. This includes a diagram (page 115) showing how a short bass octave was typically ‘broken’ through the use of split keys at the bottom end of the keyboard, extending downward to F1 but without low C♯ and other chromatic notes.

17 On this famous instrument see Latcham, Michael, ‘Mozart and the Pianos of Gabriel Anton Walter’, Early Music 25/3 (1997), 382400Google Scholar, as well as Maunder, Richard, ‘Mozart's Walter Fortepiano’ (letter), Early Music 29/4 (2001), 669Google Scholar, and his somewhat equivocal conclusion about it in ‘Viennese Keyboard Instruments’, 125.

18 For instance, the prototype for countless modern harpsichords is the double-manual harpsichord completed by Pascal Taskin in 1769, now in the Musical Instrument Collection of the University of Edinburgh (accession no. 4315); see, for example, Kottick, Edward L., A History of the Harpsichord (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), 269271Google Scholar.

19 Maunder, Keyboard Instruments in Eighteenth-Century Vienna, 100–102; the present Example 3 corresponds to Maunder's Example 7.4.

20 Maunder, Keyboard Instruments in Eighteenth-Century Vienna, 106, citing Haydn's letter of 27 June 1790 to Maria Anna von Genzinger.

21 For both composers, the most searching consideration of their instruments may still be Peter Bavington, ‘The Clavichords of Haydn and C. P. E. Bach’, talk for the British Clavichord Society, London, 21 November 1998 (online at As Bavington notes, a 1794 clavichord by the Viennese maker Johann Bohak, now in the Royal College of Music Museum, London, is the only extant instrument likely to have belonged to either composer (Haydn), but nineteenth-century modifications have rendered it unreliable as a guide to its original character.

22 Burney, Charles, The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands and United Provinces: Or, the Journal of a Tour through Those Countries, Undertaken to Collect Materials for a General History of Music, two volumes (London: Becket, Robson and Robinson, 1773), volume 1, 352Google Scholar. For the other composers see Maunder, Keyboard Instruments in Eighteenth-Century Vienna, 109 and 111.

23 Picton, Howard J., The Life and Works of Joseph Anton Steffan (1726–1797): With Special Reference to His Keyboard Concertos, two volumes (New York: Garland, 1989), volume 1, 62Google Scholar.

24 Michael Tsalka, ‘The First Published Keyboard Sonatas of Joseph Anton Steffan’, in De clavicordio XII: The Clavichord as a Pedagogical Instrument, ed. Bernard Brauchli, Alberto Galazzo and Judith Wardman (Magnano: Musica Antica a Magnano, 2017), 21.

25 Bach, Versuch, volume 1, Introduction, 11.

26 As documented by concert announcements in the local press; see David Schulenberg, The Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2014), 183, 206 and 373, note 40.

27 Richard Maunder, ‘J. C. Bach and the Early Piano in London’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 116/2 (1991), 209.

28 Maunder, Keyboard Instruments in Eighteenth-Century Vienna, 244.

29 W. A. Mozart, Six sonates pour clavecin ou forté piano avec accompagnement d'un violon, Op. 1, k301–306 (Paris: Sieber, 1779); there is a ‘cres’ marking found already at the end of the exposition of the first movement.

30 See, for example, the ‘preferred instrument’ designations and accompanying remarks for hXVI:35, 36, 38 and 39 in Brown's Table V-3 (Joseph Haydn's Keyboard Music, 169).

31 The revised Köchel number 284b reflects the redating of k309 to around 1777, based on a manuscript copy by Leopold Mozart (source B in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, Kritischer Bericht, volume 11/25, ed. Wolfgang Plath and Wolfgang Rehm (Bärenreiter: Kassel, 1998), 50.

32 We see this in J. C. Bach's Op. 5, where some accompanimental figures of this type are marked with slurs or, in one instance, the verbal indication legati (in No. 4, second movement). On the other hand, each note in the similar accompaniment to No. 2 (second movement) is marked by a staccato wedge. Most of the legato markings in nineteenth- and twentieth-century editions of Mozart's keyboard music are absent from primary sources.

33 For an example of the type of ensemble playing that may have been imitated by many Alberti basses, hear the recording by The Vivaldi Project (Discovering the Classical String Trio, volume 1 (MSR Classics, MS1621, 2017)) of the work illustrated in Example 8.

34 For further discussion of these features and specific examples see Schulenberg, The Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, 125–127.

35 The autograph (current location unknown) is described by Sonja Gerlach in Joseph Haydn Werke, series 19–20, Klavierstücke und Werke für Klavier zu vier Händen (Munich: Henle, 2006), 128.

36 Anleitung zum Klavier für musikalische Lehrstunden (Vienna: Joseph Edlen von Kurzböck, 1779). The title-page described this as ‘Erster Theil’; a separately paginated supplement concludes with ‘6 Klavierstücke verschiedener Art’ (22–40). Rigler's publisher had previously issued Haydn's Esterházy sonatas (hXVI:21–26).

37 Rigler clearly describes Bebung and Tragen [der Töne], which can be executed ‘nur auf dem Klaviere’ (page 36; compare Example 12b below). Yet though he includes dynamic markings in his musical examples, he provides no discussion of the same, merely listing a number of Italian terms for dynamics with their German equivalents (page 28).

38 The date 1771 is that of the autograph fragment.

39 Brown (Joseph Haydn's Keyboard Music, 161), grouping the C minor sonata with several other ‘highly expressive’ and ‘intense’ works of the late 1760s and early 1770s, concluded that ‘it is almost certain that these sonatas were composed for the clavichord’. Harrison is only slightly less guarded – ‘the most logical conclusion is that the C minor Sonata was written expressly for the clavichord’ (Haydn's Keyboard Music, 17) – although Maunder (Keyboard Instruments in Eighteenth-Century Vienna, 101) cautioned that nothing in it ‘would be impossible on the two-manual harpsichord’.

40 Example 11a is from the so-called ‘Hamlet’ Fantasia, the last of the Probestücke published alongside the Versuch in 1753; Example 11b is from a work composed in 1758, reportedly on Bach's famous Silbermann clavichord (see Schulenberg, Music of C. P. E. Bach, 131), although published only in 1779 in the first of the six famous collections für Kenner und Liebhaber.

41 Versuch, volume 1, chapter 3, paragraphs 22 and 28 (also volume 1, Introduction, paragraph 9). Haydn's work was published as the second of the Trois sonates pour le piano forte avec accompagnement de violon & violoncello, Op. 71 (London: Preston & Son, 1795).

42 Tangents are small metal projections attached to the ends of the keys; they not only strike the strings but stop them to produce specific pitches, as the player's finger does on the fingerboard of a violin.

43 C. P. E. Bach probably owned such an instrument, which is necessary not only for readily executing chromatic passages but also many trills, turns and other ornaments that involve semitones.

44 Maunder, Keyboard Instruments in Eighteenth-Century Vienna, 53–54.

45 Howard Pollack, ‘Some Thoughts on the “Clavier” in Haydn's Solo Claviersonaten’, Journal of Musicology 9/1 (1991), 74–91, especially 78, reviews the evidence regarding Haydn's ‘clavier’. Pollack regards at least fifteen sonatas, including the one in C minor, as ‘best suited’ for clavichord, but he does not consider the issue of fretting or the availability of unfretted instruments in Vienna or elsewhere.

46 The sonatas, known as the Probestücke (Wq63/1–6), are unusual in that each movement is in a different key. See the edition by David Schulenberg in Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works, volume 1/3 (Los Altos: Packard Humanities Institute, 2005).

47 Burney, The Present State of Music in Germany, volume 2, 270.

48 Johann Joachim Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (Berlin: Johann Friedrich Voss, 1752), chapter 14, section 9; C. P. E. Bach, Versuch, volume 1, chapter 3, paragraph 29; see further discussion in Schulenberg, Music of C. P. E. Bach, 19.

49 Example 17b has been corrected by comparison with Haydn's autograph score (in the Bibliothèque nationale de France), which is headed ‘Sei sonate per cembalo’.

50 For ‘vamps’ see W. Dean Sutcliffe, The Keyboard Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti and Eighteenth-Century Musical Style (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 196–216. On perfidia see Klaus Hofmann, ‘Perfidia-Techniken und -Figuren bei Bach’, in Die Quellen Johann Sebastian Bachs: Bachs Musik im Gottesdienst, ed. Renate Steiger (Heidelberg: Manutius, 1998), 281–299.

51 Johann Nicolaus Forkel, Ueber Johann Sebastian Bachs Leben, Kunst und Kunstwerke (Leipzig: Hoffmeister und Kühnel, 1802), 18. Forkel does not further explain the word ‘Clavier’, which evidently did not yet refer specifically to the piano, as it does in modern German.

52 Bach, Versuch, volume 1, Introduction, 15.

53 Several earlier sonatas, including hXVI:34 in E minor, 40 in G major and 42 in D major, begin piano but no crescendo follows immediately. Nor are the initial dynamics in these pieces part of a compositional idea developed later in the movement, as they are in Wq52/6 and in hXVI:50 (see below). Later editions of hXVI:31 in E major and 35 in C major, among others, show an opening piano followed by forte after a few bars, but these markings are probably not original.

54 This passage was previously singled out by Charles Rosen, The Classical Style (New York, Norton, 1971), 96, as an example of a musical pun (‘the highest form of wit’), without reference to its instrumentation.

55 Brown, Joseph Haydn's Keyboard Music, 123 (Table IV-5), places composition of the work in the mid-1770s.

56 The movement bears the title L'Einschnitt (The Caesura).

57 The title-page of the Zweyte Fortsetzung von Sechs Sonaten fürs Clavier (Berlin: George Ludewig Winter, 1763), in which this is the sixth sonata, depicts a man seated at a small house organ, his left foot playing on the pedals, but the latter are not required by anything in the volume.

58 The piano indication is explicit in the Breitkopf edition of 1800 (Œuvres complettes, volume 2), which also adds a slur and the word ten[uto] on the bass in bars 1–2.

59 Maunder, Keyboard Instruments in Eighteenth-Century Vienna, chapter 7, especially pages 99–105, established that pianos were probably rare in Vienna before the 1780s.

60 As argued by James Webster in ‘On the Absence of Keyboard Continuo in Haydn's Symphonies’, Early Music 18/4 (1990), 607.

61 On the flutes and fortepianos purchased by King Frederick II (Emanuel Bach's employer from 1741 or 1742 to 1767) see Mary Oleskiewicz, ‘The Trio in Bach's Musical Offering: A Salute to Frederick's Tastes and Quantz's Flutes?’, in Bach Perspectives, volume 4, ed. David Schulenberg (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), 79–110.

62 According to Georg August Greisinger, Biographische Notizen über Joseph Haydn (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1810), 13; this and other relevant documents are considered by Ulrich Leisinger, Joseph Haydn und die Entwicklung des klassischen Klavierstils bis ca. 1785 (Laaber: Laaber, 1994), 247–258.

63 Wolfgang Fuhrmann, ‘Originality as Market-Value: Remarks on the Fantasia in C Hob. XVII:4 and Haydn as Musical Entrepreneur’, Studia musicologica 51/3–4 (2010), 310, note 25.

64 The Italian expression in bar 192 indicates that the chord under the fermata is to be ‘held until the sound can no longer be heard’ – raising the question of how much sustaining power Haydn expected of the instrument (on a modern grand piano a forte chord might last ridiculously long). Surely, however, the passage loses much of its intended effect on a clavichord or even a harpsichord.

65 See further analysis in Schulenberg, Music of C. P. E. Bach, 239.

66 As suggested by Georg Feder and James Webster in ‘Haydn, (Franz) Joseph’, Grove Music Online (23 May 2023). The work-list attached to the article dates Haydn's fantasia tentatively to March 1789, less than two years after Wq61 would have become available in Vienna.

67 For Bach's correspondence with Artaria over the publication of these volumes see the introduction by Christopher Hogwood to his edition, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works, volume 4/2 (Los Altos: Packard Humanities Institute, 2009), xv–xxi.

68 Bart van Oort, ‘Haydn and the English Classical Piano Style’, Early Music 28/1 (2000), 73–89, outlines regional preferences for instruments, arguing for Haydn's espousal of a keyboard idiom more typical of England in the late keyboard works composed and published there.

69 Theories about the piece's origin and title are considered in Schulenberg, Music of C. P. E. Bach, 135.

70 Leisinger, Joseph Haydn und die Entwicklung des klassischen Klavierstils, 258–269.

71 This phrase and the example are from Federico Celestini, ‘Die frühen Klaviersonaten von Joseph Haydn: Eine vergleichende Studie’, Studien zur Musikwissenschaft 52 (2004), 198.

72 This is not the place to pursue the question whether the two C minor sonatas share what is known in Schenkerian literature as ‘motivic parallelism’. Heinrich Schenker himself seems never to have published any commentary on either piece; for the type of comparative ‘motivic’ analysis that might be carried out see the discussion headed ‘“Parallelismen”; “Synthese”’ in Nicholas Marston, Heinrich Schenker and Beethoven's ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata (London: Routledge, 2016), 56–60.

73 This set was followed by two Fortsetzungen (continuations), although only a few movements in the latter volumes include varied reprises.

74 Elaine R. Sisman, ‘Tradition and Transformation in the Alternating Variations of Haydn and Beethoven’, Acta musicologica 62/2–3 (1990), 159.

75 The quotation is from an anonymous ‘Account of Joseph Haydn, a Celebrated Composer of Music’, in the European Magazine and London Review 6 (1784), *253.

76 See, among others, Brown, Haydn's Keyboard Music, 344 and 350–351, citing Bach's letter of 14 September 1785, to the editor of the Hamburg Correspondent, No. 511 in Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Briefe und Dokumente: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, ed. Ernst Suchalla, two volumes (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), volume 2, 1098–1099.

77 As Bach wrote in the Versuch, volume 1, chapter 3, paragraph 31, ‘man heute zu Tage die Allegros mit 2 Reprisen das andere mahl zu verändern pflegt’ (nowadays one takes care in an Allegro with two repeated sections to vary [each one] the second time), and echoed in the Préface to the Reprisen-Sonaten: ‘Dès qu'on se répéte aujourd'hui, & qu'on reproduit une chose, il est indispensable d'y faire des changemens’ (these days whenever someone learns a piece and repeats something, it is necessary to create variations). One of the Probestücke published in conjunction with volume 1 of the Versuch (Wq63/5, third movement) already illustrated the practice.

78 Harrison, Haydn's Keyboard Music, 170–183.

79 The symphony was published in 1759 in a version for strings alone (listed as Wq177). In that same year Hasse visited Berlin, where he presumably met C. P. E. Bach and perhaps heard the symphony or saw its printed version; his remark about the symphony was reported by Burney, Present State of Music in Germany, volume 1, 349. For Hasse's praise of Haydn's Stabat mater see H. C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, volume 2, Haydn at Eszterháza, 1766–1790 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978), 144, citing Haydn's letter of 20 March 1768.

80 On the keyboard version of the symphony (Wq122/3), preserved in a single manuscript copy, see the introduction by Jonathan Kregor to his edition in Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works, volume 1/10.2, xiii.

81 Mozart would have picked up this particular keyboard idiom from J. C. Bach's Sonata in G major Op. 5 No. 2, which he arranged as the concerto k107 (21b).

82 Bach ‘not only played, but looked like one inspired’. Burney, The Present State of Music in Germany, volume 2, 271.

83 See the quotations from Griesinger and Dies cited at the opening of Elaine Sisman, ‘Haydn's Solo Keyboard Music’, in Eighteenth-Century Keyboard Music, ed. Robert L. Marshall (New York: Schirmer, 1994), 270–307.

84 Letter of 10 February 1785, probably referring to the sonatas Wq65/16 and Wq65/17; see the edition by David Schulenberg in The Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Edition, volume 1/18 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 110.

85 The Klavierschule of Daniel Gottlob Türk, first issued in 1789 and published in a revised edition as late as 1802, remained heavily influenced by C. P. E. Bach in its focus on ornaments, although the later edition acknowledges the keyboard music of Haydn, Mozart and even Beethoven.

86 These are the words of Rosen, for whom the music of C. P. E. Bach and the younger Haydn represented an ‘intermediate and confused period between the High Baroque and the development of a mature classical style’. The Classical Style, 49.

87 On this ‘periodization’ of Haydn's development see, for example, James Webster, Haydn's ‘Farewell’ Symphony and the Idea of Classical Style: Through-Composition and Cyclic Integration in His Instrumental Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 361 and Table 9.1 (362).

88 ‘Rhetoric’ has been a theme in writings by Webster and Sisman, notably their chapters ‘The Rhetoric of Improvisation in Haydn's Keyboard Music’ and ‘Rhetorical Truth in Haydn's Chamber Music: Genre, Tertiary Rhetoric, and the Opus 76 Quartets’, in Haydn and the Performance of Rhetoric, ed. Tom Beghin and Sander M. Goldberg (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 172–212 and 281–326 respectively.