Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s late Free Fantasia in F-sharp Minor exists in two versions—one for solo keyboard (Wq. 67/H. 300), the other for keyboard and violin accompaniment (Wq. 80/H. 536)—and bears the subtitle C. P. E. Bachs Empfindungen. For some modern listeners and scholars, the chamber version of the fantasia transforms the private outpourings characteristic of the genre into a public display that condescends to the sociability of the popular accompanied sonata and forces an interloper accompanist onto the solo fantasist. Adding insult to injury, the arrangement ends with a seemingly inexplicable A-major Allegro.
Yet the arrangement ought not to be dismissed. In both score and performance, it demands a sensitive and sympathetic relationship between violin and keyboard that points to a new connection between Bach and Empfindsamkeit, a literary movement that emphasized sympathy (Mitleid) as much as if not more than emotional disclosure. I offer a new interpretation of the accompanied fantasia by situating Bach’s arrangement and its performance in the context of contemporary philosophies of sympathy and practices of sympathetic readership. I compare the relationships of the composer, keyboardist, and violinist to those of author, character, and reader to illustrate that the violinist is an integral figure in the disclosure of C. P. E. Bachs Empfindungen. The violinist appears to be Bach’s sympathetic reader.
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