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C. P. E. Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Empfindsamkeit, Empfindsamer Stil, Sturm und Drang, Pre-Romanticism, Beethoven, sentiment, piano sonatas


Up until recently, many musicologists perceived music history through the lens of what is known as the “linear view.” This is the idea that one “musical period” seamlessly gave way to another, with brief transitionary periods to bridge the gaps. As a result, composers were expected to fall neatly into categories depending on their chronological placement. For this reason, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the eldest son of J. S. Bach, was (and still is) regarded as merely the bridge between the late Baroque style and that of the Viennese Classicists. In the past half-century, however, scholars have begun to study Emanuel Bach in his own right, giving an honest look at his works without imposing any preconceived notions on them. These scholars became captivated with the “pre-Romantic” aspects of his style, especially in the genre he advocated known as empfindsamer stil, or “sensitive style.” These new insights into Emanuel Bach and other composers who are “ahead of their time” have had a profound influence on musicologists, leading some, such as James Webster, to question the over-simplistic “linear view” of music history. This paper explores the idea of Emanuel Bach and his empfindsamer stil as pre-Romantic. The results of this study will show that “pre-Romantic” is indeed an appropriate way to describe Emanuel Bach’s empfindsamer stil for three reasons: first, it was driven by the same philosophical ideals as Romanticism; second, it is closely associated with another pre-Romantic movement in literature and song known as Sturm und Drang; and finally, several specific elements in Emanuel Bach’s music prefigure the pre-Romantic “innovations” of Beethoven.





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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


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