Bach's works for solo violin - the Six Sonatas and Partitas - have kept a lot of us company during the last nine months of pandemic isolation, whether we've been playing them or listening to the many performance videos that were posted online.
Asking "Which is your favorite?" might a difficult question - the answer may well change over time. They are all worth the effort - to listen to, to study, to play. And they are a lifelong endeavor. As the cellist Pablo Casals said in his 90s, after a lifetime of practicing solo Bach every day: "I think I'm finally getting better!"
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach around 1720, the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin went unpublished for more than 50 years and were largely ignored until more than 100 years later, when violinist Joseph Joachim championed them. Nonetheless they have become a kind of technical, intellectual and spiritual centerpiece for the violinist.
So as always, this is an exercise in what your current favorite is - it may be the one you have most recently studied, or the one you have most recently listened to. It may be one that you heard in an especially memorable performance, or just the one that sticks in your mind. So please participate in the vote and choose the sonata or partita that holds the most significance for you at this moment, and then share your thoughts in the comments.
Below the poll are videos of all six Sonatas and Partitas for you to enjoy - or watch before voting, if you wish! I've chosen versions that include the entire work in one video, and I've also chosen violinists from different time periods with different approaches - modern, Baroque and in between. Because I was limited to posting the entire work and also wanted to show live performances when possible, I was forced to leave out a lot of very good performances! So please feel free to list your favorite performances of these works in the comments, as well.
Sonata No. 1 in G minor - James Ehnes plays live, in June 2020:
Partita No. 1 in B minor - Antal Zalai plays live, in October 2020 at The Evangelical Church of Siófok:
Sonata No. 2 in A minor - Shunske Sato plays on a period instrument (with Baroque tuning A=415) and Baroque bow, in a performance for the Netherlands Bach Society's "All of Bach" in June 2019:
Partita No. 2 in D minor: Itzhak Perlman plays live from Saint John's Smith Square, London, in 1978:
Sonata No. 3 in C major Hilary Hahn, from her 1997 recording:
Partita No. 3 in E major This video pairs Arthur Grumiaux's storied 1960-61 recording with the sheet music:
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