Welcome to the 2015 Lindsey Chapel Series!
This year we focus on the Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (including one transcribed for viola). The title page of Bach’s fair copy (from 1720) reads: Sei Solo - a violino senza Basso accompagnato (Six Solos for violin without bass accompaniment).
The three Sonatas derive their form from the four movement Italian church sonata. The first movement of these sonatas was typically slow and invited extensive improvisation by the performer. In Bach’s case, the ornaments, while surely meant to sound improvisatory, are entirely written out and, indeed, incorporated into the composition. The second movements of the Sonatas are all fugues of varying degrees of complexity. (The C Major fugue is one of the longest Bach was to write). The third movements all move into different keys, while the final movements return to something flashy in the tonic key.
The Partitas (Partias in Bach’s manuscript) are of an entirely different form. The Partita structure is based on the movements of the French Suite (Allemande-Courante-Sarabande-Gigue). In looking at your program, you can easily see that Bach was unwilling to be locked into this exact form. Deviations abound, perhaps the most striking and extreme is the addition of the great Ciaconna in the D minor Partita.
C.P.E Bach wrote of his father: “He understood perfectly what was possible on all string instruments and this is exemplified by his works for solo violin and solo violoncello.”
Bach was intent on pushing hard against the boundaries of what was possible on the violin. Often melody, bass line and harmony are implied or (through the use of string crossing and multiple stops) actualized. The acoustics of this room should highlight the complete musical experience possible with only a bow, four strings and a marvelous player!
-Michael Beattie, 2015