This week we are sharing the second video of a two-part series about the Siciliana in B-flat, from the first Sonata in G minor, BWV 1001. The concluding section of this Siciliana is different from anything else in all of the Sonatas and Partitas. We came across some questions there, which we likely would not have run into had we only been playing Bach’s notes. While arranging this section, we saw that there were phrases in which the harmonies seemed so ambiguous, we could only assume that we were missing something. For seven years we kept revisiting those measures, and finally were led to a most interesting answer by Robert Gjerdingen, a wonderful musician and brilliant theorist who is very knowledgeable about the music of the Style Galant composers.
It became apparent very early on in our work on the arrangements that this process was bringing us closer to the heart of the music, and in a way that was not attainable when learning to play only the notes that Bach himself wrote. The process of adding notes demands that one be constantly asking: “What was his purpose here?” or “What did Bach mean by this?” The impetus for us creating the Sonatas and Partitas website was to share some of our discoveries with all musicians who love to play Bach, whether it be on the violin or the guitar or keyboard, or any instrument. There are many videos and blog articles on the website already, with more being added regularly. Have a look at it and, as always, let us know what you think either on the website's contact form, or by replying to this newsletter.
This week we are sharing another video, the first of a two-part series about the third movement in the first Sonata, the Siciliana in B-flat. While the Baroque Sonata da Chiesa typically had four contrasting movements, alternating slow-fast-slow-fast (Corelli’s sonatas sometimes had as many as eight movements), one might think of Bach’s violin sonatas as being a prelude and fugue, followed by a song and dance.
In each of these sonatas, the third movement is particularly beautiful and very lyrical. This movement is where we hear most prominently how Bach’s sonatas are derived first and foremost from vocal music, and, in this regard, the Siciliana is a very touching song for three or four voices.
In case you have not yet seen it, we have a blog article from May 16th on the website that discusses Bach’s use of vocal music in the Sonata da Chiesa.
The video this week explores a particularly beautiful aspect of Bach’s use of choral technique in the Siciliana, and it also discusses the architecture of this deceptively simple masterwork. Part-one deals only with the sections in which Bach establishes his key and then leaves it; part-two will discuss the return home, and then the denouement that follows.
As always, feel free to send us your thoughts and questions.
With best wishes,
Frank and Heather