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Sarah Vandemoortele

Response to the discussion "Bach Partita II Allemande"

November 23, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Hi everybody,

My eye caught the discussion about Bach's Allemande from the Partita II. Since I'm a bit a Bach freak, and since I think it's so wonderful we can use the manuscript of this work (which means we actually don't necessarily have to rely on the work of editors), I would like to post a response here because it is a bit too lenghty to post on the discussion forum. I hope I won't sound too much like preaching, but the main point I want to make is: Everybody can try to push him/herself to use the manuscript as often as possible, in as detailed a manner as possible. It is very well readable, it is becoming increasingly important for professional musicians (and students at conservatory) to do this kind of 'homework', and ... you don't need to buy it. Just look for it on IMSLP.
As it happens, some time ago, I made a comparison between the manuscript version of the Allemande and about 13 editions (out of a total of about 70 editions, I know now, thanks to another member).
Therefore, I would like to invite you to take the manuscript of the Allemande, and read the commentaries I made on it below, as an example of how you can conduct your 'homework' while looking for bowings and fingerings.

Bar 1: Many editions add an extra D to the upbeat and an extra E to the upbeat of bar 17. To add a double stop adds power to the upbeat, which may be suitable if one wants to treat the movement rhetorically rather than dancelike. Some editions seem to be inconsistent however and add a double stop to the first upbeat only and not to the second.
This inconsistency might have to do with voice-leading. If Bach’s version is respected, the upbeat to bar 1 is part of the upper voice, while the lower D in the double stop leads to the C sharp two beats later. The upbeat to bar 17 is part of the lower voice, while the upper E in the double stop leads to the F in the next bar. If one wants to play Bach's version and respect the voice leading we either have to start the movement with open D and continue on D string, or we could use Szigeti's rather romantic-sounding solution, i.e. start on the G string and stay on G string entirely (, which is consistent with his fingerings in bar 17, however I find that the two voices are less audible in that way).
To start with open D (as in the first solution) is quite a daring thing to do, so that could be why some editions make a double stop of that first upbeat. In the upbeat to bar 17 we don't have to start with an open string in order to respect the voice leading, so no doublestop is added by the editor.
To conclude:
Option 1: respect Bach's MS and voice-leading and start with a perhaps disturbing open D string (or use Szigeti's outdated fingering)
Option 2: consistently play both upbeats with doublestop, which starts you off without the disturbing D, but sets a rather strong rhetoric character for the rest of the movement(which you might not prefer above a dance-like character)
Option 3: "compromise" and inconsistently play one upbeat with, one upbeat without doublestop
Bar 4: Obviously Bach did not intend double stops here, but he has laid out two possibilities. All editions assume that the upper line is the ‘right’ possibility and it is indeed the most interesting one. One might thus argue that the lower line is a mistake which Bach didn’t remove.
Bar 15: Most editions think there is a mistake regarding the slurring of the triplets. Some think that the second triplet should also have a slur, others think that both triplets should be under one slur. It is up to the performer to decide whether preserving Bach’s manuscript here provides us with an extra quality or not.
Bar 16: Double dotting did not exist during Bach’s time, which is why the upbeats and the last chord and last double stop of both sections don’t add up. Most editions have corrected this by adding either a dot or a semi-quaver rest. => Again, there is some space for interpretation here.
Bar 17: see Bar 1
Bar 20: Although the score clearly indicates that the first note of the first beat is played separately, the slur following afterwards, some editions think Bach wasn’t accurate/consistent here and intended to write the first four notes of the beat slurred and the last note of that beat separate, just like the other beats of that bar. It is up to the performer to decide whether they want to preserve or clean up Bach’s ‘inconsistency’. This ‘inconsistency’ can be welcome if one wants to show the voice leading better, but is not necessary for that purpose either.
Bars 24 and 25: Most editions find the absence of slurring in two full bars rather uncomfortable and boring and add slurs (often they slur the first three semi-quavers of the third beat of each bar).
Bar 30: In many editions one will find the first three semi-quavers of the last beat slurred, observing that the following two beats have the same figuration as the last beat of bar 30. One might wonder though whether Bach indeed intended to phrase the last beat of bar 30 in the way suggested by these editions.
Bar 32: For the length of the double stop, see Bar 16
Note the fermate above the double bar. To write a fermate above a double bar seems an almost contemporary way of controlling the silence (between two movements). Together with the instruction “Segue le Corrente”, the fermate is often left out in editions, leaving the performer no clue whether Bach intended the movements of the Partita to be performed as a whole or whether there was a possibility to perform them separately. Some editions have left out the fermata of all movements except for the one at the end of the Ciaccona, as if the silence after the Ciaccona should allow the impact of this weighty movement to sink in with the audience.

There are many more details that can be observed out of the comparison between the manuscript and editions, but this might be a start. In any case, the first contact with a piece of music might be spoiled unnecessarily by using an edition if the manuscript is still available. And in this case the manuscript is available to everyone!

From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 23, 2011 at 5:57 PM
I love reading informative posts like this!
From marjory lange
Posted on November 23, 2011 at 6:39 PM
Sarah, this is a wonderful, thought-filling post. It's clear and delightfully in depth while being considerately open-ended on many contested issues.

One question (probably displaying vast ignorance, but hey, how else will I learn?)

What do you mean by "rhetorical"? "Dancelike" is transparent, but a rhetorical allemande seems generically confusing in a way I can't quite figure.

From Sarah Vandemoortele
Posted on November 23, 2011 at 9:29 PM
Hm, what do I mean with rhetorical?
Perhaps: pronouncing every note as if it were part of a speech? In that way a feeling of dance-like metre might be jeopardized, but maybe there is a way of playing "dance-like" and rhetorical at the same time, I don't know.
(I always think of Shumsky as a very rhetorical player, more than his "contemporaries", but maybe that's a dangerous association to make. Listen on youtube (there is some Bach by him too) and see whether you agree.)
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 23, 2011 at 11:21 PM
an interesting and imformative post.
I do beg to differ on a few points if you don`t mind.
In my opinion Szigetis fingerings are not at all out of date. (Sorry,To be fair I note in rretrospect oyu are referring to this particular fingering only- but my point still stands. Whether or not this fingering is romantic is also not a useful way of talking about it. High positions existed in Bachs time and `romanticism is what? Color, rubato, playing in higher psotions rather than lower?)

Szigetis fingerings
are extremely sophisticated and he has a musical, coloristic rational for -every single one of them- which he clealry sets out in his book. I do not know of any other violinist who has ever done this in such detail. The (untrue) claim that they are out of date is not sustainable unless you wnat to say that the modern way of playing is , roughly speaking, `do Bach in first position.` There are no `modern fingering` systems in existence which prove in any shape or form that Szigetis fingerings are out of date. Indeed, it is quite noticaeble how player ssuch as Per;lman comment on the moderness of Szigetis approach and ideas on violin playing. Note to that one of the great interpreters of the 21st century (Gringolts) has actually stated that Szigeti is hs favorite violinist. Food for thought.
Actually I use a lott of Szigetis ifngerinsg which I consider superior to Szeryngs which are also brilliant. The reason I stopped using that parituclar opening starting in fourth positon (incidentally , it is not correct to say that Szigeti played it all on the g string,you need to look again at what he wrote) was that it is just a litlte nerve wracking. Szigeti offers an altenrative version by another great player whose name I forget which I use. One starts in forst position with a fourth finger double stop and then plays a first finger g in third positions. Szigeti was greatly in favor of this particlar fingering and i have found it to be the most secure and musical as far as I am cocnerned.
The reason Bach uses the double notes is actually connected to the semi-mystical use of number sand the alphabet which was common in Bachs time. These days Madonna use it a lot but I am not sure why....
The work is infused with the names of Anna Magdelena who had just die and the double note is the means of getting the letter sof her name into the opeing.
Never been sure how this actually works but Tetzlaff is an expert on this subject so give hima call....
There is one fingering I do use which differs from the Szeryng edition (which is on a much higher artistic level than Galamias by a long way) is in the penultimate bar of the first section. One can choose to go up the a string or or across to the e string. I now ho across to the e string because I think it sounds better. I changed to this after lsitening to Milstein a lot who does tend to favor lower psotions even in romantic music .

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