Bach Solo Sonatas and Partitas

February 4, 2007 at 08:34 PM · Nice and simple... Which is your favourite Bach sonata or partita and why? Any favourite movements?

Replies (49)

February 4, 2007 at 09:33 PM · I'm currently hooked on Milstein's version of Partita in e major. But, I need to see some more before voting.

February 4, 2007 at 10:37 PM · Whichever one I am playing at the moment.

February 4, 2007 at 11:32 PM · Greetings,

its really hard to choose. Probablky the c major after heairng Szigeti play it. The last two movements are eprsonal favorites of mine. Just beatiful and more relaxing than the brilliance of the e major works.

For praciticng technique when I am pushed for tyime I use the g minor fugue. I used to think that getting back in shape or wamring up was a largely mechanic procedure requirung in the former case a day or two of extra technicla work, abnd in th elatter some scale sand bow arm exercises. These days I find an immense application of mental energy triggers the old responses in the fingers very well indeed. That is I take a chord sequence form the fuge. Mentally hear every note and vizualize the finger pattern. Play it. Do the next. Then two chords at atime then three etc. Also pick out the scales in 3rds and 6ths. Fifteen minutes or so of this kind of work is easily as good as pages of tehcncial double stops and is a lot more fun.

I also play through movements such a sthe Presto everyday five or six times well udner tempo to identify small mistakes and keep the piec ein mind. This kind of pracitce helps to guard against a tendency to pracitce small detials all the time and lose sight of the big picture.



February 5, 2007 at 12:15 AM · Heifetz (grammy winning) recording - dry room. I can hear what he does technically.

Perlman - great interpretation for the fugues and you can't beat the heavenly sounds of his violins. Best "romantic" recording.

Milstein - classic classic recording.

Hahn - very perfect recording, maybe too perfect, but it's still good.

Shlomo Mintz - dunno why I like it, but it's just nice to listen to imperfect playing.

Grumiaux - killer instinctive straightforward no fuss playing; great technique.

V (Top are Heifetz, Perlman, and Grumiaux)

February 5, 2007 at 12:58 AM · I agree with you Vince. Heifetz and Milstein made lovely recordings of Bach - kind of a contrast to this 'authentic' era in interpretation that is all so common today in many artists. I think it is refreshing to listen to these recordings of Bach. I also like Menuhin's early recording of the Chaconne.

February 5, 2007 at 01:20 AM · My favorite is the C Major Sonata. The first movement is so weird and lonely and expressive. Incredible dissonances and amazing, surprising resolutions. The way it begins is so alien - C and D, then the sonority of a major 2nd: C,D, and E - at this point a listener without a program might think this is 20th century - then Bach gradually adds pitches above and below, one step at a time - B and F, Bb and G, and finally A and A. An incredible expansion that signals Bach's intent to exhaust the violin's emotional and technical capabilities. The deceptive half-step rise on the downbeat of m.8 might be my single favorite moment in the S+Ps, rivaling the F# that signals "Major!" in the Chaconne. What an amazing series of dissonances at m.20! Finally, the final cadence (the first real C Major in the movement) at m.45 dissolves into an elevated coda ending on an expectant half cadence.

Any performer who stops to tune at this point needs to be shot.

Fugue! The incredible 3-part C Major fugue - the longest fugue Bach ever wrote for any instrument - follows. I could talk for ages about this fugue, but I'll just mention programmatic religious (holy trinity) elements and two incredible barriolage passages (m.187 + m.273) which surround an even more incredible "al riverso" passage. Bach flips the fugue subject roughly upside-down (Son - reflection of Father), doubles the harmonic speed, and writes the single most difficult, ambitious, and stunning passage ever written for solo violin.

After the fugue, the Largo arrives with a beautiful simplicity. A serene, pastoral song, only occasionally accompanied, sooths the soul after the tumultuous, exhausting fugue.

Finally, the Allegro assai completes the emotional journey of the Sonata with ecstasy (dare I say - rapture?) Just look back at the first movement - does any other piece short of Beethoven's 9th symphony achieve such a journey?

That's my favorite, and why.

February 5, 2007 at 02:47 AM · For all the Bach fiddle music lovers: Check out Bahrenreiter's Violin Solos from the Sacred Works (BA 6986). Some wondrous text in German and

English to complement 18 solos from the cantatas, masses etc. Well edited and another dimension of Bach's genius.

February 5, 2007 at 03:03 AM · Well, let's see...

I really like the G minor sonata, and of course the D minor partita. I love the C major and A minor sonatas (Buri, Szigeti got me hooked on those ones too), and the B minor and E major partitas are great.


February 5, 2007 at 04:27 AM · Vince, what question are you answering? You name six players and yet not a single one of the sonatas or partitas. The only reason I mention this is because there are tons of posts on here about everyones favorite Bach recordings, but maybe we can let this discussion not turn into another one of those.

I guess the Ciaconna is too cliche to get any votes thus far. It's usually my favorite movement. After listening to it I think, how do you follow THAT? With the C major Sonata...which is my favorite of the 6 complete works.

February 5, 2007 at 04:28 AM · How embarassing! I ran a thread awhile back about long term goals--and wanting to some day play Partita BWV1006 e-maj.... I had watched Milstein play it....

So here is my answer!

Part of being an adult student is learning that no question is dumb I guess....

February 5, 2007 at 05:07 AM · oh man

yeah, I guess I didn't answer -- but I probably avoided it subconsciously because I like them all and pretty much equally.

?? V

February 5, 2007 at 05:14 AM · Peter, you said, "Check out Bahrenreiter's Violin Solos from the Sacred Works (BA 6986)." Where? I can't find this on the web. Thank you.

February 5, 2007 at 06:02 AM · Yes, it is hard to say which piece is the favorite. A lot of it depends upon mood, or phase of life. The 6 are also so wonderful as a set that it seems difficult to extract one as a favorite. In fact, having a favorite might be a sign that we are missing something essential that is at the heart of these works. (Could it be like having a "favorite" child?)

Indeed, I think that if there is a Sonata or Partita toward which we feel ambivalence, we should explore that one, and engage in a process of growth and discovery.

February 5, 2007 at 01:35 PM · As an amateur, I've bumbled through the Sonatas & Partitas all my life for my own pleasure (I'm not sure how pleasurable it is for anyone overhearing me). But as a listener, I love all of the Sonatas & Partitas. However, the Chaccone is a true cathedral in sound, and is one of the supreme achievements of Western Civilization. I also think the C-Major Fugue is an extraordinary piece of music.


February 5, 2007 at 01:59 PM · That's true, but I have got to point out that the g minor fuga was the greatest thing to me when I played it.

The chords Bach tapped -- what range of emotion? What a simple line (simpler than the a minor and c major fugas)!?!

It was really beautiful going through it, from b flat major to blah blah minor. Great stuff!


February 5, 2007 at 06:08 PM · Playing the Bach fugues is one the most musically, spiritually and intellectually (technically too) stimulating exercises existing. I'm doing the G minor now and I find it hard to start any practise session without first playing the fugue. It's addictive! (I recently acquired the Julia Fischer recording and I highly recommend it)

February 5, 2007 at 06:26 PM · As a kid the G minor Fugue was my favorite piece for a long time. Now I like all the movements pretty equally but would like to point out that I find the G minor Siciliana really beautiful and simple which no one has mentioned yet.

February 5, 2007 at 06:27 PM · I watched young people doing the partitas and other parts of 1001-1006 last night and it was really inspiring. There was one kid who is going to be extremely good, once he has in the words of someone else, had his heart broken a few time. He was just very clean and accurate.

February 6, 2007 at 04:59 AM · Love them all. Right now the Allemanda of Partita no. 1 in b minor touches me the most -- so much humanity. I practised this piece so I guess I can say I have physically felt through it.

February 6, 2007 at 06:16 PM · I have a particular affinity for the a minor sonata. The third movement, I believe, is the most beautiful movement of any of the sonatas or partitas. The fugue seems to dance more than the other two fugues he wrote, and of course the outer movements are also great. But then again, I tend to enjoy whatever one I'm currently working on.

February 6, 2007 at 07:37 AM · What are the best recordings of 1001-1006 together?

February 6, 2007 at 07:44 AM · Grumiaux by Philips is one safe bet, I'll say.

February 6, 2007 at 07:55 AM · thank you

February 6, 2007 at 01:51 PM · Albert - there are several threads listing favorite recordings of these pieces. It is safe to say that almost every recording has at least one proponent. Go check out those threads so that we do not waste yet another thread on this issue.

February 6, 2007 at 05:38 PM · Heifetz or Perlman or Grumiaux

I think you meant a minor sonata.


February 6, 2007 at 06:16 PM · hahaa that's hilarious. just edited to fix that.

February 6, 2007 at 06:53 PM · Arthur Grumiaux's recording of the Bach partitas and sonatas is fabulous and super clear. You can really tell the feel of the Bach and it is really true to the original composition. It's also complete so you don't here these fragmented things.

February 6, 2007 at 08:05 PM · I think the D- Chaconne and the 3rd movement of the A- are the greatest.

February 6, 2007 at 08:23 PM · Yes I'll have to agree with Amy and Pieter by putting in another vote for the Chaccone and 3rd movement of sonata no. 3. The C-major fugue is one of my favorites as well.

February 6, 2007 at 09:32 PM · I like the G minor Fugue and the Adagio from the C Major Sonata the best. That is, until I hear myself play them.

February 6, 2007 at 09:40 PM · That's so hard to choose! I love all of the them, especially the G minor adagio and fugue (I just started learning the adagio), and the ciaconna.

February 7, 2007 at 12:26 AM · I love playing the Chac. (best recording is the set S&P, Heifetz) It's sooo passionate and like, has so many faces.

But all the fugues for sure, last movement of g minor, adagios of a minor sonata, d minor partita, e major partita and c major sonata, last movement of c major sonata, actually the prelude/adagio and fugue of the c major, the entire b minor partita is really awesome as a collection.


February 7, 2007 at 01:19 AM · Menuet II.

Just kidding. Ciaccona it's gotta be


February 7, 2007 at 01:47 AM · I sampled them last night at Amazon--how nice...

February 7, 2007 at 03:22 AM · If I had to pick a favorite movement (besides the Chaconne), right now I'd have to go with the Andante from the A minor sonata, especially Szigeti's recording. I don't like all of his Bach but the way he plays that mvt is something pretty special.

February 7, 2007 at 03:36 AM · Maura... your creepy crush on Szigeti is starting to become a little strange... you're scaring the children.

February 7, 2007 at 03:42 AM · Greetings,

actually you are scaring Pieter but he is too scared to admit it....



February 7, 2007 at 04:20 AM · Pieter, I can start torturing you any time I want by just mentioning a certain Benoit Rolland, so don't mess with me.

February 7, 2007 at 04:36 AM · There are many scarier things on this site, than Maura's creepy crushes. Buri's spelling comes to mind.


February 7, 2007 at 06:38 AM · I have always loved the first movement of the D minor. My teacher has just given me the E major. Does anyone have any advice/suggestions for learning it? I am a few weeks away from starting my music degree and have been asked to play a movement a few weeks into term.


February 7, 2007 at 07:24 AM · ...or Ilya's use of punctuation.

February 7, 2007 at 11:03 AM · haha...well , my vote goes for the has never ever left me unaffected.


February 7, 2007 at 01:56 PM · Maura - as usual, bless you; Hungarian first, last and always.

February 7, 2007 at 03:38 PM · Köszönöm, Tamas. :)

Pieter, that use of punctuation is perfectly grammatical in Russian...

February 7, 2007 at 04:16 PM · Given Buri's spelling, it makes you wonder what he sees on the page when he reads music and what it sounds like.

February 7, 2007 at 07:47 PM · Well, when this turns to violin.commie then it will be acceptable.

February 7, 2007 at 06:18 PM · DANG! And I thought I was addled....Brother, Sister, Comrade!. I'm stopping all etudes immediately!

February 9, 2007 at 12:46 AM · ,.,:

February 9, 2007 at 09:03 AM · haha, I second G.

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