V.com weekend vote: What is your favorite movement of the Bach Double?

October 15, 2023, 5:44 PM · Wait, the Bach Double has three movements? Yes it does!

I remember having this revelation as a student - having learned both parts for the first movement of Bach's Concerto in D minor for two violins, aka the "Bach Double." How exciting, two more movements to learn!

Bach Double

Many, many violinists learn to play this piece - the first movement appears in the Suzuki violin books - the second violin part at the end of Book 4 and the first violin part at the end of Book 5. The other two movements are not in the Suzuki sequence, but I certainly still consider them an important part of a violinist's essential diet!

The Bach Double is on my mind because I went to a colleague's house yesterday for a "Bach Double Party" in which about a dozen kids of all ages plus a few of their parents celebrated the wonderful first movement of this piece by playing it a whole bunch of different ways: slow, fast, with tiny Twinkle bows, all-pizzicato... This brought me so much joy, proving that yes, I am thoroughly a geek for Bach, and particularly for this piece.

Can I possibly choose a favorite, among the three movements of the Bach Double? They almost feel like three separate pieces.

The first movement is the one is most frequently taught, learned and played. Certainly, it's the one I know the best, after years of teaching it. I've been carrying it around in my head since I was young, and I've had at least a few occasions in which a gathering of violinists has spontaneously burst into this movement of the Bach Double, playing it by memory just for fun. It's a great way to make a new friend! This movement is almost a musical "meme" for violinists.

The second movement is some of the most beautiful music ever created. It's perfect to play in nearly any situation that calls for seven minutes of musical tranquility - a wedding, a funeral, and anything in between.

But the third movement - could it be my favorite? Probably the least well-known of the three, it is also arguably the most exciting and challenging. It's a piece with attitude, and it is complex enough to keep all players constantly on the ball.

For this week I'd like to explore the question: what is your favorite movement of the Bach Double? And if you don't know all the movements (or even if you do!), I have assembled videos below so that you can have a listen, before you vote! Please participate in the vote, and then share your thoughts on the Bach Double. Feel free to talk about learning the piece, or various performances you have heard, or what you like about the particular movements.

I. Vivace

Here we have violinists Janine Jansen and Leonidas Kavakos performing the first movement of the Bach Double at the Verbier Festival in 2014:

II. Largo, ma non tanto

From 2012, violinists Simone Porter and Yoonbe Kim perform the second movement of the Bach Double with pianist Sarah Yong at a benefit concert at the Colburn School for Center Stage Strings music camp.

III. Vivace

I had to share this version of the third movement performed by violinist Anne Sophie Mutter, because it is so smokin' fast! (Compare this tempo to this performance also by two great violinists - much slower, still sounds great). Mutter is performing with violinist Wei Lu and the Mutter Virtuosi in Carnegie Hall in 2014. This is cued up to the third movement, but you can back up the video to hear the full version, in which she performs each movement with a different member from the ensemble (Nancy Zhou in movement 1, and Ye-Eun Choi in movement 2.)

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October 15, 2023 at 11:22 PM · The outer movements are great but, in my opinion, the slow movement is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.



October 16, 2023 at 12:55 AM · I just can't choose between the 3 movements, they're all exciting, exquisite, and iconic (even though that's overused by now). They're enjoyable to listen to, and absolutely heavenly to perform.

October 16, 2023 at 02:36 AM · Bach had a knack for slow movements. The slow movement of the A Minor violin concerto is a real gem, too, rivaling the slow movement of the Double Concerto, in my opinion. The Largo of the Double is so long that it's hard to create a clear musical arc for the piece.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to perform the entire concerto with another violinist and our community orchestra. The other violinist had been a student in my chemistry course at the university the year before, so I'm close to three times her age!

I chose the first movement as my favorite because so many people know it that you can strike up a duet very easily, and the musical themes are outstanding. Like Vivaldi's Four Seasons, there's a reason it's so popular.

October 16, 2023 at 08:42 AM · The second movement of Bach's Double Violin Concerto has a beauty that is impossible to describe. My favourite part in that movement is the modulation between the two violins. It is a true conversation from start to finish, even more real than a verbal conversation. I enjoy the whole concerto, of course, which I think I found by surfing YouTube about six or seven years ago. And that's after knowing Bach's music since childhood!

October 16, 2023 at 10:31 AM · The majority gives the prize to the slow movement and so do I. But it is like a diamond: The gold around it matters too.

There is so much to enjoy and discover across all three movements, e.g. the theme with which the work begins is in 5/4 (inside a piece that is thoroughly in 4/4). Or the references to Vivaldi's a-minor double concerto (op. 3/8) in the last movement.

October 16, 2023 at 12:54 PM · Reluctantly, I voted for the second movement. (I say "reluctantly," because choosing the most beautiful movement is kind of like choosing your favorite grandchild - it's impossible).

October 16, 2023 at 03:11 PM · Is it my imagination, or do ASM and WL slow down a bit, once the more lyrical passages come along?

October 16, 2023 at 03:12 PM · 2nd.-movement,- provided that the tempo is not too slow. It should sound like it is in 4, with triplets that flow comfortably. It is almost a dance.

Albrecht- great observation, it does sound something like 5/4. Without looking at the paper or watching the conductor, the opening half-scale sounds like a pick-up to a strong emphasis on open A.

October 16, 2023 at 03:15 PM · Second movement! (Played at my wedding 40 years ago.)

October 16, 2023 at 06:13 PM · Friends of mine played it at my wedding too (didn't prevent the eventual divorce; even Bach is only human).

October 17, 2023 at 03:27 AM · 2nd movement; I agree with Buri that it is some of the most beautiful music ever written.

October 17, 2023 at 02:02 PM · I'll have to go with the second movement too. It stirs up something deep within my soul.

October 20, 2023 at 09:13 PM · What if Bach had written II for single violin? Would we still love it as much?

October 22, 2023 at 06:18 PM · I voted for the first movement. When the Bach Double was new to me, this movement drew me in the most, making me want to listen to it and learn to play it. The second and third movements, for all their beauty, held my interest less. I’ve had this response to some other concertos, too. The dramatic tension of their first movements drew me in, held my interest, and made me identify with these movements as pieces that I’d be willing to perform for listeners; while their second and third movements appealed less to me as listener and player - e.g., Mendelssohn e minor, Bruch g minor.

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