Bach E Major Partita Preludio

August 20, 2007 at 05:44 AM · I've been working on the preludio of Bach's E Major partita and can't decide whether to start on an up bow or down bow. what have you done and why?

Replies (29)

August 20, 2007 at 03:52 PM · Up bow seems to work nicely... as far as I can recall..

August 20, 2007 at 03:47 PM · You 'may' be able to see what Milstein does on Youtube.

August 20, 2007 at 03:52 PM · Wait, forget what I said. Milstein starts down bow...

August 20, 2007 at 03:57 PM · I have the Ivan Galamian edition of Bach's 6 Sonatas & Partitas and for the Bach in E Major Preludio it is marked as an up bow, but my old teacher from juilliard marked the starting note, E as an up bow. I have tried both and I feel the down bow is most comfortable.

Hope that helps!

August 20, 2007 at 04:38 PM · Ah yes. I have the Galamian edition which is why the up bow probably seems natural to me.

God I'm obsessive...

August 20, 2007 at 05:28 PM · That's a good thing! Good luck on a beautiful piece.

August 21, 2007 at 10:58 PM · I think the idea of starting with the up bow is so that you can do two up bows at the end of the 1st bar, bringing your bow to the heel for the 2nd bar.

Two problems I can see with this is that the anti-clockwise bow change in the middle of the 1st bar doesn't feel very natural, and it also seems a bit odd to have upside down bowing in the 1st bar.

August 21, 2007 at 11:39 PM · I vote for down-bow.

August 22, 2007 at 01:44 AM · I vote republican.

...and up bow.

August 22, 2007 at 03:31 AM · I vote Down Bow.

August 22, 2007 at 03:54 AM · And Democrat. OF COURSE!

August 22, 2007 at 04:09 AM · Nobody's perfect ;)

August 22, 2007 at 04:10 AM · True, Marty!

It had been a while since I'd looked at the Urtext for this one, and I was half-expecting to find no slurs in the intro, which would leave a lot of room for debate. But actually Bach himself wrote in that slur over the first five notes of the second bar. So a down-bow works well for both attacking the beginning of this very bright movement and also for being in the right bow direction for the barriolage.

August 22, 2007 at 02:56 PM · whoops, I meant my teacher marked it as a down bow not an up bow...silly me.

August 23, 2007 at 12:44 PM · I was just assigned this piece two weeks ago....

Down bow. Szeryng editor

Wish that was the major prolem.

August 25, 2007 at 03:07 AM · this helps a lot! thanks everyone

August 25, 2007 at 09:32 AM · Try both and see which one sounds better when *you* play it. :)

August 25, 2007 at 09:57 AM · The whole of the first bar is one big up-bow!

August 25, 2007 at 02:36 PM · Singing the Preludio prompts me to place the first accent on the 3rd note. The next note that gets an accent is the eleventh, which is in the second sequence, and sounds as an answer to the previously accented third note. These two accented notes give a dance-like propulsion to the opening of the Preludio. Once that inherent poetry (rhythm and accent pattern) is in the violinist's ear, beginning on downbow seems to be the obvious choice. (The third and eleventh note are then accented easily and naturally on downbows.) Whoever plays downbow because it is written, or because someone else told him to do so, will take his playing to a higher level by searching for something in the music which is fulfilled by starting downbow.

My first step was singing, rather than violin playing. This idea was expounded by Pablo Casals when he answered a question put to him in an interview. The interviewer asked Casals how he goes about learning music. Casals said that he sings it and he plays it on the piano, after which he begins to play it on the cello. The interviewer asked him why he did the first two things before beginning to play it on the cello. Casals answered, simply and modestly, "I don't want the limitations of my cello technique to influence my interpretation."

August 25, 2007 at 03:05 PM · Oliver, what's the slur over five notes in the second measure for? Is he trying to create a certain phrasing or nuance? Or with a baroque bow, would the opening be played at the heel, and the slur gets you to the tip for the string crossings?

August 25, 2007 at 03:22 PM · The effect of the five note slur is to subdue the first four notes of the slur, hence putting a generous, natural and easy emphasis on the last note of the slur. (When played with the appropriate bow distribution.) The last note of the slur is that eleventh note of the Preludio described in my previous post. Bach's bowing suggestion reenforces the idea that the cheerful, celebratory, dance-like spirit of the Preludio's opening is rooted in the accents of the opening two sequences. Personally, I like to convey those accents with a bowing that slurs only the first three notes of the slur in the manuscript. With a three note slur, the downbows come out the same as they would using the five note slur, but the articulation appeals to me more.

August 25, 2007 at 04:41 PM · Oliver Steiner's reasoning seems very sound to me. Another possibility is that there is a hidden return of the pick-up within the five note slur on the 9th and 10th notes leading to the eleventh note in the same way the first two notes lead to the third note. In either case, starting down bow automatically gives a natural emphasis to the main notes following the two pick-ups. Rachmaninoff has a very interesting transcription of this for piano showing the polyphonic possibilities inherent in this seemingly monophonic piece. I believe it is this piece that Nathan Milstein referred to in his story about Rachmaninoff being upset with him for disapproving of his un-Bach like harmonies in certain places in his transcription and then later acknowledging that Milstein's criticisms were well founded and that he had changed the places to which Milstein had objected.

August 25, 2007 at 04:44 PM · Hey Phil! How are you?

I like up bow since it's a pickup, it feels lighter.

August 25, 2007 at 03:47 PM · Oliver

Great input, thanks so much. Your explanations are clear.

How to continue the Bach E Mj Perludio......

I'd like to have your input for my small hand fingering (stretch) issues. Here's what I'm attempting:

measures 43&45: 1343 2343 2343

measures 44&46: 1232 4232 4232

Thanks in advance.


August 25, 2007 at 05:26 PM · Mary, that's what Galamian has, except in 44 he gives 1st finger on the second E as an alternative fingering which gets rid of the fingered octave. In that case 2 would go on c# in the second two beats of course.

August 25, 2007 at 06:58 PM · Thanks Jim.

I'll give it a try and let you know if you saved my fiddle from neck surgery. :-)


August 25, 2007 at 11:23 PM · I feel the opeining in a slightly different way to Oliver.

I feel that the stongest beat in the 1st bar is the quaver rest (even though you can't hear it). The phrase then starts from the 2nd quaver, and I don't feel any accent on the 2nd beat (moreover I feel it phrases off slightly from the 1st beat). In the 2nd bar, I try to match the feeling of the 1st bar from the 3rd semi-quaver onwards (if that makes any sense!).

August 26, 2007 at 11:16 PM · I just looked to Ysaye for inspiration but failed to find any ... though DB is strongly implied.

August 27, 2007 at 03:31 AM · What would you think if the accents in the opening were on the last eighth in each of the two groups of eighths (the upbeat).

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