Can I play the Bach Chaconne?

February 15, 2008 at 11:44 PM · I am really considering asking my teacher to let me play the Bach Chaconne. Ever since hearing Perlman playing it, I fell in love with it.

I recently played the Barber concerto, and the Saint Saens no. 3. I don't really know.....I am only 14. But I practice a minimum of 2 hours a day and up to 4 on weekdays if I can. What are your thoughts?

If I need to clarify some issues, feel free to ask me. I will answer them honestly, but I need honest answers as well. (If I am not ready for it then I will totally accept it).

Replies (24)

February 15, 2008 at 11:53 PM · What other Bach have you played?

February 16, 2008 at 12:05 AM · Have much bach have you played? If you have played all bach Fugues very well, you should be ready

February 16, 2008 at 12:27 AM · Ah....well, I've done the g minor fugue and most of the a minor.

February 16, 2008 at 12:27 AM · Other than that, I have done all of the d minor partita (minus the Ciacona, obviously), and the first movement of the g minor sonata. I have also done all of the e major partita, minus the praeludium.

February 16, 2008 at 04:13 AM · Greetings,

well, I am going to suggest a compromise that you might find helpful or not. Why don`t you spend some time memorizing it without the instrument. This approach to learning used to be quite standard in Europe a while back and somehow it lost poularity but it is veyr powerful albeit a little hard on the studnet. When one doe sthis the amound of time and energy one save sonce pracitcing begins is huge and because there has been sucxh a greta focus on the sound and structure in the body itself it is merely (!) a question of paying it.

Another possibility is to set yourself a time once a week when you play it through twice under tempo noting interesting or problematic aspects. Then put it away. Reepat this every week for several months. When you finally come to learn it the mind and body will already be well prepared. In this kind of practice one can play around freely with the tempos. Play difficult passages as slowly as yo wish so that the mind can get a snapshot of them.



February 16, 2008 at 04:42 AM · Buri, I remember you suggested similar approach (the suggestion of yours to me when I asked about trying Bruch:) Well, it turned out I wasn’t ready for that but your advice remains very helpful and encouraging. Your second suggestion also makes great sense. My recent trip to China brought me some interesting views of the Chinese violinists on violin practice, one of which is about practicing intensively (with great care to the detail and perfection) and extensively. The latter means one can selectively go through some material without aiming at perfection but just get oneself a broader understanding or familiarity of something that one may later revisit with more vigour. I know this is not exactly what you are suggesting but I see relationship between the two.

Brian, after I had played other parts of the d minor partita (not all that well), I asked my teacher half-jokingly if I can try the Chaconne, her answer was “not this year.” She was being very diplomatic and it made me laugh. It sounds that you are way more ready for it than I am. Why not ask your teacher?

February 16, 2008 at 03:36 PM · I have already had the chaconne memorized in my head for about 5 years now. I am like a walking mp3 player; I just have to turn on the recording in my head! (Seriously, I have about 60 CDs memorized in my head.)

I think that I will ask my teacher on my next lesson. Thanks for all your helps guys!

February 16, 2008 at 05:13 PM · Sure you can play the Chaconne...anyone can play the Chaconne. Getting it to sound like you want will be the obstacle.

February 17, 2008 at 07:53 AM · Why not? It is a very good opportunity to develop your skills of playing chords, memorizing music :P, etc.

BTW, have you ever played any Bach?

February 17, 2008 at 09:48 AM · I got morbid this afternoon and went to that findagrave site. I wondered where J.S. Bach was buried. Then I looked up his wives and relatives.

I don't know if this is true, you can say you read it on the internet, but according to the site, the Chaconne was written in response to his first wife Maria's sudden death. He was away, and when he returned he learned she had died and had already been buried.

It's easy to picture him trying to do something during that time to get his mind off it, a style of variations so difficult to pull off successfully. You might suppose a fair amount of schnapps figured into the Chaconne too if the story's true...

Anna Magdelena was evicted from the house when Bach died, and she died ten years later in a poorhouse. They were both buried in unmarked graves in the same cemetery. Around the turn of the 20th century Bach's grave was discovered somehow during renovations and moved to a crypt. During WWII, the cemetery area was bombed by the allies and Anna Magdelena's grave is probably no more.

February 17, 2008 at 03:14 PM · It doesn't hurt to play it on your own for enjoyment once in a while. If you feel so strongly about it then tell your teacher you haven't been able to help yourself and that you keep gravitating towards it during your practice sessions. In many cases a teacher won't let you play it without guidance for fear that you'll practice it the wrong way and develop bad habits. If you're honest about it she might help you or give you definite reasons for staying away from it.

February 17, 2008 at 09:29 PM · So what does it mean to be "ready" to study something?

Does it mean you're ready to tackle the technical difficulties with a reasonable expectation of conquering them?

Does it mean you expect to be ready to perform it in public without breaking down?

Does it mean you expect to be ready to perform it with a convincing musical delivery and technical security?

Does it mean you will perform it with the sublime artistry that the work ideally should have?

I would guess, judging by the repertoire you have already studied, that you are technically ready to tackle the Chaconne. I also feel that the fact that you have listened to it for years, know it well, and love it, are all positive factors and will all contribute to a good quality of learning and performance.

On the other hand, it may not be the most useful thing for your development at this particular moment.

I would start playing it, messing around with it, practicing parts of it, enjoying it, trying it on for size -- independently of your teacher. After a while, you should have a much clearer idea of whether you want to "officially" devote yourself to studying the piece now, or if you would be better off waiting a while.

I believe that a very important part of our activity as musicians consists of spending time with a lot of music, getting acquainted with it, enjoying it, and broadening our experience.

February 17, 2008 at 10:13 PM · Roy,

That is so well put and extremely clear. Thank you!

February 17, 2008 at 10:31 PM · Yes-I will do that. Thank you Roy for clearing it all up for me.

February 17, 2008 at 11:18 PM · Interesting discussion here. Brian, you might also try asking your teacher something like this: 'I'd really like to learn the Chaconne, but I'm not sure if I'm ready. What do I have to do/learn/prepare etc. before learning it?' That's a nice open question, and if your teacher says you're ready, then you can jump in.

February 18, 2008 at 01:37 AM · Great idea, Megan. I will try that. Thanks!

When the worst comes worst, butter her up. :-D

"Hi Mrs. Huang, your dress is beautiful today. Did you lose some weight? I think that you are the best violinist ever. Oh, by the way, can I learn the Bach Chaconne?"

February 18, 2008 at 02:30 AM · No

February 18, 2008 at 03:10 AM · Lol....Charlie, I was kidding.

February 18, 2008 at 09:44 AM · Brian, did you post some of your own playing here, of a Bach fugue once a while back? If I remember you correctly, I would say you are ready. I was jealous of that recording.

February 18, 2008 at 01:47 PM · Ha! No, I didn't. I'm always too afraid to post my own playing on here, as my performances are never to my liking. Sorry-you got me confused with someone else.

March 20, 2008 at 02:09 AM · Dear Brian,

You remind me so much on myself when I was your age.... "magister dixit" and all that stuff. Respect your teacher and listen to your heart. Read this article,

Try not to get seduced by virtuosity of the piece, like many great violinist have been. There are many subtle (and hidden) elements in it... It is a baroque dance, a theme with variations. It might be interesting to listen to Victoria Mullova's interpretation and compare it to Perlman's. Good luck!

March 21, 2008 at 12:24 AM · Check Hilary Hahn's and Heifetz's recordings too! Both of them are different. Hahn's is slow, Heifetz's is fast (as always) - but they both reveal incredible amount of colour from Chaconne. I have noticed many things I haven't known about chaconne after listening to them.

I'm definitely not ready to play it, but I love it too.


March 21, 2008 at 01:21 PM · Hilary Hahn has become my favorite interpreter of Bach, and when the day comes for me to learn the Chaconne, I will lean heavily upon her recording. I would suggest others to do the same, both for the profundity of her interpretation, as well as the ease in tempo.

March 21, 2008 at 06:01 PM · I think that the sensible thing to do is to trust your teacher's judgement. Your teacher knows your playing. We do not. Your teacher watched you and helped you to develop your skills to their present level. We have not.

If you went to a doctor who took care of your health for several years, has all kinds of medical data and history about you in his files, and prescribed medications for you for years, observing their effect on you, would you then ask a crucial medical question of another doctor whom you've never met, who doesn't know you, and never once saw you in his office?

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