- Sonatas and partitas for solo violin
repertoire, and are recorded and performed frequently.
Bach composed the works in
1720, while employed at Köthen. The manuscript was nearly destroyed but someone saved it from being used as butcher paper. There, Bach composed more chamber musicthan sacred or choralmusic; the Brandenburg Concertos, concerto for two violins, and cello suites were all composed about this time.
The original performer of Bach's six sonatas and partitas is unknown.
Johann Georg Pisendeland Jean-Baptiste Volumierhave been suggested, both being talented violinists at the Dresdencourt, as has Joseph Spiess, leader of the orchestraat Cöthen, where Bach composed the works. However, some contend that it may have been Bach himself who gave the first performance, pointing to his skills as a violinist. His father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was a violinist, and according to his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "in his youth, and until the approach of old age, he played the violin cleanly and powerfully".
onatas and Partitas
The sonatas each consist of four movements, in the slow-fast-slow-fast movement pattern of the
sonata da chiesa, with the second movement as a fugue. The partitas are suites of dance movements, making use of the usual baroque pattern of allemande, courante, sarabande, and gigue, with some omissions and the addition of galanteries.
Many scholars and performers, like contemporary violinist
Christian Tetzlaff, believe these works to be one whole idea, "like a big Bruckner symphony," he said. He also has a theory about the meaning of these works: He describes the three sonatas as religious works depicting the Christmasstory, the Passion of Christ, and the Resurrection. The three partitas, on the other hand, in his opinion are the more "earthly" side of life, dances and songs. However, the two meet in the D Minor Partita, especially in the Chaccone, a personal requiem to his late wife Maria Barbara.
onata No.1 in G minor, BWV 1001
# Fuga (Allegro)
c. 16 mins [Timings taken from the Rachel Podger recording.]
The first sonata is in G minor, although its key signature lacks one flat. Such a notational convention in the baroque period occurs likewise with the key of D minor, and should not necessarily suggest that the piece is in the
Dorian mode.The second movement, the fugue, would later be reworked for organ (in the Prelude and Fugue, BWV 539) and the lute (Fugue, BWV 1000).
Partita No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002
# Tempo di Bourrée
The first partita substitutes a tempo di
bourréefor the gigue, and each movement is followed by an embellished variation, called a "double".
c. 31 mins
onata No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003
c. 24 mins
"'Partita No.2 in D minor, BWV 1004
# CiacconaIn the original script, Bach marks 'Segue la Corrente' at the end of Allemanda.The powerful Ciaconna ("
chaconne" in English) lasts nearly 14 minutes and easily surpasses the length of the other movements combined. This Ciaccona is considered a pinnacle of the solo violin repertoire in that it covers practically every aspect of violin-playing known during Bach's time and thus it is among the most difficult pieces to play for that instrument. The Ciaccona is recorded and played relatively frequently by itself, without the rest of the partita.
c. 29 mins
onata No.3 in C major, BWV 1005
# Fuga (Alla breve)
# Allegro assai
c. 23 mins
Partita No.3 in E major, BWV 1006
# Gavotte en Rondeau
# Menuet I
# Menuet II
An authentic transcription for
luteexists, numbered BWV 1006a.
c. 20 mins
Recordings on violin
Portions were first recorded by
Joseph Joachimin 1903, and the first complete set was recorded by Yehudi Menuhinin the mid-1930s.
Yehudi Menuhin, 1934-1944
George Enescu, 1948
Jascha Heifetz, 1952
Joseph Szigeti, 1956
Arthur Grumiaux, 1961
Henryk Szeryng, 1954 and 1967
Nathan Milstein, 1956 and 1973
Jaap Schröder, (baroque violin)
Sigiswald Kuijken, 1981 (baroque violin)
Jean-Jacques Kantorow, 1985
Itzhak Perlman, 1988
Gidon Kremer, 1980 and 2005
Lucy van Dael, 1996
Ida Haendel, 1996
Salvatore Accardo, 1996
Hilary Hahn, 1997 (1004–1006 only)
Rachel Podger, 1997-1999 (baroque violin)
David Grimal, 2000
Ingrid Matthews, 2000 (baroque violin)
* John Holloway, 2006 (baroque violin)
Elizabeth Wallfisch(baroque violin)
Monica Huggett(baroque violin)
Lara St. John
Julia Fischer, 2005 (1750 Guadagnini)
Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Jan. 12./15. 1955 (1004 only)
Emil Telmanyi(with Vega/Bach bow)
James Ehnes, 2000
Richard Tognetti, 2005 (1759 Guadagnini)
Michael Vaiman, 2006 (released 2008)
Ilya Kaler, 2006 (released 2006)
Transcriptions and orchestrations
Although this work was intended for violin, Bach himself transcribed portions for other instruments, and the entire set has been transcribed by others for guitar, viola, cello and piano.
* The Fuga from the First Sonata, for organ as BWV 539 and for lute as BWV 1000
* The entire Second Sonata, for keyboard (possibly by Bach) as BWV 964
* The Chaconne of the Second Partita has been transcribed by
Ferruccio Busoniand Joseph Joachim Rafffor piano, by Johannes Brahmsfor left hand piano solo, by Andrés Segoviafor guitar, and has been orchestrated by Leopold Stokowski.
* The Adagio of the Third Sonata, for keyboard as BWV 968
* The entire Third Partita is also the Fourth Lute Suite, BWV 1006a
* The Preludio to the Third Partita is also used in two different
cantatas, BWV 29 (where it is scored rather dramatically for organ obbligatoand orchestra) and 120a
* Selected movements from Sonatas and Partitas 1, 2, & 3 as the Bach-Grandjany Etudes for harp, transcribed by Marcel Grandjany.
* Two sonatas and one partita have been transcribed for piano by
* The entire set has been transcribed for Harpsichord by Associate Professor Winsome Evans at the University of Sydney, and a recording by Evans of the set is due to be released later in 2007.
* Numerous selections from the set of 3 Sonatas and 3 Partitas arranged for solo classical guitar are to be released by Savage Classical Guitar Editions in September of 2008.
List of recordings on other instruments
The Sonatas and Partitas have been transcribed for and recorded on many other instruments.
Scott Slapin, viola
Andrei Pricope, cello
Vito Paternoster, cello
Andrés Segovia, guitar (selected movements)
* John Williams, guitar (selected movements)
Paul Galbraith, 1998, 8-stringed guitar
Goran Sollscher, guitar
Hopkinson Smith, 13-course baroque lute
Nigel North, complete set (and the cello suites) on lute
Sergei Rachmaninoff, piano (prelude to the third Partita)
Béla Fleck, banjo (prelude to the third Partita, played in C instead of E)
Manuel Barrueco, guitar (The Sonatas BWV 1001, 1003 & 1005)
* Dave Grossman, [http://www.jsbach.net/bass/recordings.html 7-string electric bass]
Leigh Howard Stevens, marimba
Kazuhito Yamashita, 1989 - guitar (Complete Sonatas and Partitas BWV 1001 - 1006)
Notes & references
* [http://www.jsbach.net/midi/midi_solo_violin.html MIDI Sequences] of Bach's Violin Sonatas/Partitas
* [http://www.guitar-moonbeams.com/bach-violin.html Download of synthesized version]
* [http://www.magnatune.com/artists/paternoster Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin] Vito Paternoster - MP3 Creative Commons Recording, played on cello
* [http://www.mutopiaproject.org/cgibin/piece-info.cgi?id=180 Musical score and MIDI file] at the
* [http://www.stringsmagazine.com/article/145/145,3865,Feature-1.asp violinists talk about their approach to Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin]
* [http://www.tononirecords.com/jsbach2.cfm From liner notes of a Benedict Cruft recording]
* [http://www.classicalnotes.net/classics/partitas.html Discussion of recording history]
* [http://www.gotomidori.com/english/musicnote-200302/musicnote-49bach.html Discussion of publishing history and Second Sonata]
*"Music for Glass Orchestra" by
Grace Andreacchi, a novel that contains an extensive analysis of the Sonatas and partitas for Solo Violin.
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9804EEDB1E30F93BA15757C0A9669C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all The New York Times. April 28 2000. By Anthony Tommasini. "A Violin Virtuoso and Total Bach"]
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