Johann Sebastian Bach. A capable violinist and thoroughly familiar with trend-setting Italian models, Bach undoubtedly wrote much more chamber music than has come down to us. He was not, however, much attracted to the then-dominant trio sonata form, written for two solo instruments with continuo accompaniment improvisation over a notated bass line, usually by harpsichord or lute, with the appropriate chords indicated. On the one hand, he favored the solo sonata without accompaniment, composing a group of six sonatas and partitas for violin, six suites for cello, and a sonata for flute, all of which are astonishing accomplishments of contrapuntal and idiomatically instrumental art. Another type of duo sonata, which he virtually created, leaned the other way, toward a more controlled version of the trio sonata texture.
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The six sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord BWV — by Johann Sebastian Bach are works in trio sonata form, with the two upper parts in the harpsichord and violin over a bass line supplied by the harpsichord and an optional viola da gamba. Unlike baroque sonatas for solo instrument and continuo, where the realisation of the figured bass was left to the discretion of the performer, the keyboard part in the sonatas was almost entirely specified by Bach.
The extant sources for the collection span the whole of Bach's period in Leipzig, during which time he continued to make changes to the score. Bach's sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord were composed in trio sonata form, i. Instead of playing the role of a continuo instrument, filling in the harmonies of a figured bass , the harpsichord took one of the upper melodic lines on equal terms with the violin, whilst also providing the bass line which could be reinforced if desired by the addition of a viola da gamba.
In the totality of Bach's musical output, the instrumental sonatas written in trio sonata form are small in number. In each case the trio sonata texture derives from the compositional form and not the particular combination of instruments, which was partly a function of the musicians at Bach's disposal.
This is well illustrated by the first movement of the organ sonata BWV which originated as the sinfonia starting the second part of the cantata, BWV 76 , with oboe d'amore and viola da gamba as solo instruments; and likewise by the trio sonata for two flutes and continuo BWV and its alternative version for viola da gamba and obbligato harpsichord, BWV Although it had been believed for some time—and advanced as a theory by Eppstein —that the sonatas BWV — must have originated in lost trio sonatas for two instruments and continuo, no prior versions have been discovered and it is accepted that only a few movements could have such an origin.
Although this compositional style became widespread in the late eighteenth century, in Bach's day it was unusual and innovative. Although all the sonatas are written in trio sonata form, each has its own distinct character—the third is an example of the Sonate auf Concertenart , a sonata written in the style of a concerto. Later generations of Bach scholars have recognized that Bach's involvement with chamber and orchestral music continued in Leipzig, especially through the Collegium Musicum ; and accordingly Schmieder's rigid chronology is no longer generally accepted.
In the Neue Bach-Ausgabe edition, the editor and musicologist Rudolf Gerber was unaware that the manuscript had been largely copied by Bach's nephew, who was only a pupil at the Thomasschule at the time. This suggests that the initial collection of sonatas, assembled for an unknown purpose, was probably copied from pre-existing compositions and hastily completed. The history of the sixth sonata BWV is distinct from that of the five others. The three different versions of the sonata and its successive comprehensive modifications in Leipzig indicate that its role in the collection evolved only gradually.
The two first movements, a large scale concerto allegro and a short largo, remained largely unaltered throughout these revisions and were copied by Bach's nephew Johann Heinrich into the earliest surviving manuscript from In the manuscript the remaining movements were entered by Bach himself.
The sonata took the following form:. The solo movements provide a contrast with the other movements, which are duos for violin and obbligato harpsichord; moreover as dance movements they add variety and lightness to the set, making it more like a dance suite. The violin solo, with the harpsichord providing a simple figured bass accompaniment, was an early version of the Tempo di Gavotta from the same partita. Only the harpsichord part survives, but the violin solo for the fifth movement has been reconstructed without difficulty from the score of BWV ; the missing violin part for the short Adagio has been recovered from the second version of the sonata.
He replaced the harpsichord solo by a lengthy Cantabile for violin and obbligato harpsichord:. There is no longer any indication that the opening Vivace should be repeated in performance; the lack of a fast finale returning to the original key has been taken as an indication of the unfinished or intermediate status of this version.
The sonata attained its final form some time between and and survives in a copy made by Bach's pupil Johann Friedrich Agricola. Now with five movements and matching more closely the earlier five sonatas, it retained the first two movements with some minor modifications, including "Vivace" changed to "Allegro" but had three newly composed movements after that: a dance-like harpsichord solo in E minor in binary form; an Adagio in B minor, modulating to D major; and a gigue -like final Allegro in G major.
The slow movements contain some of Bach's most beautiful and profound essays in serious, sad, or lamenting affects. The first musical description of the sonatas for obbligato harpsichord and violin BWV — appeared in Spitta In the s Hans Eppstein made a systematic analysis of all the sonatas for obbligato keyboard and melody instrument, including the six organ sonatas, BWV — He determined common features in their compositional forms; part of his aim was to investigate their possible origins as transcriptions of lost compositions for chamber ensemble.
Because of the complex history of BWV , with its five movements and two previous versions, Eppstein gives his analysis for the first five sonatas BWV —, viewing the movements of the sixth sonata as hybrid forms. The movements of the three versions of BWV will be discussed separately in its own section below. The five sonatas BWV — are all in four movements in the conventions of the sonata da chiesa , with a slow first movement, followed by a fast movement, then another slow movement before the final allegro, often having a joyful or witty dance-like character.
Eppstein pointed out a uniform structure in the fast movements. They are all fugal in form but can be divided into two distinct and readily identifiable types:. In general the first fast movements of the sonatas are written as tutti fugues and the closing movements as concerto allegros.
There are two exceptions: in the fifth sonata BWV in F minor, the first fast movement is a concerto allegro and the closing allegro is a tutti fugue; and in the third sonata BWV in E major both allegros are tutti fugues. Both fast movements are usually linked by the musical form of their subjects.
The slow movements by contrast are united only by their diversity. The violin and keyboard play different roles and there are often more than two voices in the upper parts, which can divide in the keyboard part or have double stopping in the violin. Bach explored all possibilities in the slow movements: they can resemble movements from every variety of baroque musical genre, including concertos, chamber works, dance suites, cantatas or accompanied arias; and the textures in the keyboard and the violin were often new departures, quite distinct from previously known compositions.
Unlike the fast movements, there is no longer an equality between the two upper parts and the bass, which plays a continuo role. In the accompanying keyboard ritornello of the first movement of the F minor sonata BWV , the two parts in the upper keyboard and the bass line share the same material which is echoed imitatively between them; in the third movement of the same sonata, the filigree demisemiquaver scale figures in the right hand are responded to by demisemiquaver arpeggios in the left hand.
In these last two movements the violin and the upper keyboard are equally matched partners. In the majority of slow movements, however, the role of the upper keyboard part is subordinate to that of the violin and—although composed with independent material—serves the function of providing an obbligato accompaniment.
The opening Largo of BWV in 6 8 time is a Siciliano , a binary dance-form widely used in the early eighteenth century. In the minor key it was associated with a mood of melancholy or even pathos. The elegiac melodic line and ornamentation are entirely suited to the violin. As numerous commentators have pointed out, with its affecting anapaests , the compositional style and impassioned tone resemble those of the obbligato violin solo in the celebrated alto aria "Erbarme dich" from Bach's St. Matthew Passion.
The harpsichord supplies a continuo-like accompaniment. There are arpeggiated semiquaver figures in the harpsichord right hand, while the quavers in the left hand—with their French tenue slurs gradually descending in steps—provide a rhythmic pulse gently driving the movement forward, almost like an ostinato bass.
The second movement of BWV in common time is a "concerto allegro" according to Eppstein's classification. New material is also introduced in a brief two bar interlude a third of the way through the movement.
The ritornello, or parts of it, recurs ten times in the movement, which it also concludes. Musical material from the ritornello and interlude is developed extensively in the many intervening episodes. The ritornello then returns for seven bars with the fugue subject in the harpsichord. After the cadence, a pivotal two bar interlude introduces new motifs in all the parts:. In the upper parts a tightly phrased semiquaver figure ornamented with a demisemiquaver dactyl is heard in the harpsichord, then in a response in the violin and finally in the harpsichord where it leads into a cadence.
This is accompanied in the bass line by new rising figures made up of chromatic fourths. As Eppstein comments, although this new material is quite different from that of the ritornello, Bach subsequently relates it to the ritornello: in the two bar reprise of the fugue subject of the ritornello at the cadence, chromatic fourths are included first in the descending left hand of the harpsichord; and in the next bar they are then heard as a rising quaver motif in the right hand, forming a new countersubject.
This four bar passage is immediately repeated with the upper parts exchanged. For the remainder of the movement, Bach ingeniously permutes all the musical material at his disposal, with thematic passages from the ritornello interspersed with more elaborately developed variants of previous episodes.
Between two bridging episodes, the ritornello theme returns in the violin but now starting in the middle of a bar. The fugue theme is heard again in the bass line accompanied by the countersubject in the violin; the fugue subject then passes to the violin starting mid-bar; and finally it is heard in the upper keyboard of the harpsichord.
After a further extended concertino -like episode revisiting the trilling exchanges from the beginning of the movement, the ritornello theme returns mid-bar in the left hand of the harpsichord, accompanied by the countersubject in the right hand.
With the upper parts exchanged, there is a repeat of the dactylic interlude along with its eight bar sequel. It is linked by a brief quasi- stretto section to a three bar cadenza -like passage over a pedal point , leading directly into the concluding eight bar ritornello, its opening marked by the rising chromatic fourth figure in the bass line. In the Adagio in triple time, the violin plays the cantabile melodic line in dotted rhythms in its lower and middle registers as if an alto solo.
At first declamatory in the forte passages, the piano responses are expressive but subdued. Bach's knowledge of the expressive qualities of the violin is shown in the opening phrases, written so they can be played on the G string, the lowest string on the violin, regarded as having a "noble" tone. Below them the bass part punctuates the melody with a fragmented continuo-like accompaniment in quavers and crotchets. As Ledbetter comments, the complex and contrasting juxtaposition of rhythms, if played as annotated, has a magical effect.
In the course of the movement there are six forte phrases of increasing complexity and length in the violin part each followed by a proportionate piano response. In the concluding four bar coda, the violin and harpsichord play semiquaver figures imitatively as the tonality modulates to G major, leading into the final Allegro. Eppstein describes the mood of the movement as "verinnerlichte und vergeistigte"—inward-looking and spiritual. The final Allegro of BWV is a spirited dance-like "tutti fugue" in binary form.
Like the last movements of BWV and the first organ sonata BWV , it follows the same plan as the fugal gigues in Bach's keyboard partitas, BWV — ; namely in the second part of the binary movement, the fugue subject is inverted. Following Eppstein , the structure of the first part can be described as follows.
The fugue subject is first played by the harpsichord in the first four bars. In the next four bars it is taken up by the violin while the harpsichord plays the countersubject. Before the bass plays the theme, there are two linked interludes. The main one is four bars long with the violin playing material based on the fugue subject, while the harpsichord plays characteristic two bar motifs which Eppstein describes as "fountain-like".
These are made up of semiquaver triad motifs leaping upwards before descending in the semiquaver figures of the countersubject. The second interlude of three bars has both parts playing these semiquaver figures in parallel. The material from both episodes is then ingeniously developed. Eventually a four bar passage of semiquaver scales in the harpsichord part leads to a cadence and then a reprise of the second interlude, before a fourth and final statement of the subject and countersubject.
The first part then concludes with an emphatic rendition of the two interludes in the violin and harpsichord. Although parallel to the first part, the second part is not a straightforward inversion it is ten bars longer with 64 bars instead of Only the fugue subject and countersubject are inverted. Both are also transformed in other ways: the first by adding intermediate notes and removing some repeated notes which change its rhythmic character to a more continuous melodic line; and diminution is introduced in the countersubject, now playfully scored in syncopated groups of three semiquavers instead of four see the 5th bar above.
The second part starts with the modified fugue subject in the violin; followed by the subject in the harpsichord and the countersubject in the violin. This is immediately juxtaposed with the return of the original uninverted 4 bar fugue subject and countersubject in the harpsichord and violin, leading into a concluding restatement of the rhythmic eight bar interlude.
The third and final version of the sixth sonata which has five movements: Allegro, Largo, Allegro harpsichord solo , Adagio and Allegro. The opening movement is a concerto allegro in G major and common time.
This already sets the sonata apart from the previous sonatas, which like the sonatas da chiesa of Corelli start with slow movements: BWV , like the instrumental concertos of Bach, begins with a fast movement.
Symmetrical in structure and written in strict da capo form, its opening 21 bar ritornello is scored as a tutti section for all three parts. The toccata -like semiquaver theme descending in the violin is matched by a rising quaver countersubject in the upper keyboard, with a rhythmic quasi-continuo in the bass line.
The upper voices are written in invertible counterpoint in the ritornello, with the musical material alternating every two or four bars.
Violin Sonata in E major, BWV 1016 (Bach, Johann Sebastian)
The six sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord BWV — by Johann Sebastian Bach are works in trio sonata form, with the two upper parts in the harpsichord and violin over a bass line supplied by the harpsichord and an optional viola da gamba. Unlike baroque sonatas for solo instrument and continuo, where the realisation of the figured bass was left to the discretion of the performer, the keyboard part in the sonatas was almost entirely specified by Bach. The extant sources for the collection span the whole of Bach's period in Leipzig, during which time he continued to make changes to the score. Bach's sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord were composed in trio sonata form, i. Instead of playing the role of a continuo instrument, filling in the harmonies of a figured bass , the harpsichord took one of the upper melodic lines on equal terms with the violin, whilst also providing the bass line which could be reinforced if desired by the addition of a viola da gamba. In the totality of Bach's musical output, the instrumental sonatas written in trio sonata form are small in number.
Sonata for violin & keyboard No. 3 in E major, BWV 1016
Far less famous than Bach 's Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin are the six Sonatas for violin and harpsichord composed at roughly the same time. And yet these works are among the finest treasures that High Baroque chamber music has to offer. The four movements of BWV follow the same basic pattern in the typical Corelli or Handel sonata da chiesa: slow-fast-slow-fast. The opening Adagio, with its very Italianate style of ornamental melodic writing, is in two, nearly equal sections.