Cello Concerto

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Cello Concerto in Bb major

H. 436, WQ. 171 • “Version of H434”

About this work

As with C.P.E. Bach's two other cello concertos, this one leads a triple life as a keyboard concerto and as the Flute Concerto in B flat (Wq 167, H 435). The initial ritornello of the Allegro movement is rich in thematic elements for later elaboration. At a striding tempo, the noble, confident opening motif gives way to a gentle cascade of falling seconds, which is mirrored near the end of the section by an ascending pattern of dotted eighth notes. This material alternates with the cello-dominant sections, which at first simply replay the ritornello's themes, but gradually assert their independence, first through harmonic alterations and then through complex runs. The Adagio slides into G minor and affords the soloist passages of sad tenderness and great expressivity. Much of the cello writing lies high in the instrument's range, and although the main melody is predominantly smooth and dolorous, it does sometimes pick up a jaggedness from the movement's underlying rhythm. The mood suddenly brightens with the arrival of the driving Allegro assai. Characteristically of Bach, the music jitters along only to wander briefly into an odd key and stop short, continuing on its hyperactive way after a brief, dramatic pause. The cello solos, as usual, echo this material, but more often smooth out the music's contours for maximum contrast with the tutti passages. This does not keep the solo part from indulging in flurries of sixteenth notes and the occasional virtuoso flourish, particularly in its last appearance before the final, bright orchestral tutti.