Compositions in A-flat major
Beethoven chose A-flat major as the key of the slow movement for most of his
C minor works, a practice which
Anton Bruckner imitated in his first two C minor symphonies and also
Antonín Dvořák in
his only C minor symphony.
Since A-flat major was not often chosen as the main key for orchestral works of the 18th century, passages or movements in the key often retained the
timpani settings of the preceding movement. For example, Beethoven's
Symphony No. 5 in C minor has the timpani set to C and G for the first movement. With hand tuned timpani, there is no time to retune the timpani to A-flat and E-flat for the slow second movement in A-flat; accordingly, the timpani in this movement are reserved for the passages in C major. In Bruckner's
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, however, the timpani are retuned between the first movement in C minor and the following in A-flat major.
Charles-Marie Widor considered A-flat major to be the second best key for flute music.
A-flat major was the flattest major key to be used as the home key for the keyboard and piano sonatas of
Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, with each of them using the key for two sonatas: Scarlatti's K. 127 and K. 130, Haydn's Hob XVI 43 and 46, and Beethoven's
Op. 26 and
Op. 110, while
Franz Schubert used it for
one piano sonata. It was also the flattest major key to be used for the preludes and fugues in
Johann Sebastian Bach's
Well-Tempered Klavier, as flatter major keys were notated as their enharmonic equivalents.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel,
John Field, and
Friedrich Kalkbrenner each wrote one piano concerto in A-flat (Mendelssohn's being for two pianos); they had the horns and trumpet tuned to E-flat.
Concerto for Two Pianos in
A-flat minor has its last movement in A-flat major, which is the parallel major; this concerto plays with the contrast between the two keys.
Works for stringed instruments in this key include
String Quartet No. 14 and
Violin Sonata No. 4.