tripped over by peters' bach siciliano

June 9, 2009 at 03:53 PM ·

so my kid was starting on this bach siciliano piece, the one on page 10 in peters edition and page 5 in galamian edition, i think.  the one that is soothing to listen to if played well, so i anxiously await.

in the fourth bar, 6th beat,  in peters edition,  it is a chord of F and C and she played it like that.  the teacher stared and started lecturing on the  importance of not to be careless with sightreading and asked her to play again more carefully.  (when you suck at sightreading, you are always a suspect:) 

she did it one more time, carefully, and the teacher was visibly fuming, which made me giggle at this interesting dynamic observed often enough in each lesson.  One More Time, the teacher insisted, about to look up the sky and sigh: why, why, why.  she did, really carefully this time, sensing the gravity of the situation without knowing how to be more helpful.  

COME OVER HERE, X#%^@&&@^^!  they compared notes and realized that they were using different editions; in the galamian edition the chord is written as  F and D.

different era not only interprets and but literally plays notes differently?

v.comers use peters or galamian and why?   perhaps this incident can help her appreciate the evolution of bach's music..

Replies (29)

June 9, 2009 at 04:21 PM ·

I only wish I sucked so much at sightreading that I could produce doublestops in Bach first time through.

June 9, 2009 at 05:40 PM ·

In the Baerenreiter Urtext, they have F and D at that point. However, I consulted my recordings

Milstein plays F and C

Rachel Podger (baroque violin) plays F and D

Perlman plays F and D

Heifetz plays F and C


Theoretically, F and C might actually make more sense, as F and C means ii6 (previous beat) to V to I and F and D means V4/2 [without root and third] to I6 to I. Given that the older players Heifetz and Milstein play F and C, and that it's from Edition Peters, I would say it might be the fault of the publishing company and an opinion that has since been overrided. In my experience, Edition Peters is inclined to change notes based on what they think sould be "correct," and given the theoritical preference of ii6 to V to I versus the less likely V4/2 without root and third to I6 to I, the people at Edition Peteres probably changed it to what they thought should theoretically be correct. However, this doesn't mean Bach wanted it that way =) We can't just go around changing manuscripts on the basis of theoretical piety

June 9, 2009 at 08:36 PM ·

Bach's manuscript is F and D. I have the Schott (Szeryng) edition and it's the same as well.

June 9, 2009 at 10:13 PM ·

" given the theoritical preference of ii6 to V to I versus the less likely V4/2 without root and third to I6 to I "

Umm, how important is it that I understand what that is all about?

June 9, 2009 at 10:31 PM ·

The Sonatas and Partitas circulated in manuscript through the 18th century.  Around the first decade of the 19th century, a manuscript was discovered in St. Petersburg that was believed to be Bach's autograph, and the first printed edition was based on that manuscript. 

Later in the 19th century, Bach's autograph manuscript itself came to light--it had been owned (I believe) by Bach's daughter or grand-daughter and passed to Wilhelm Rust, who was one of Bach's successors as Cantor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig.  However, the autograph remained in private hands (It was offered for sale to Brahms but he didn't bite because he wasn't sure it was authentic), and wasn't used to prepare a printed edition until the early 20th century.  

Bach's handwriting has been extensively studied by musicologists, and I think there's little doubt today that the Rust manuscript is genuinely in Bach's hand, or that the one thought to be original earlier isn't.  However, copying errors from the earlier manuscript have perpetrated themselves in some subsequent editions.  (Hand-written copies are always prone to these errors, and even Bach's original contains errors--for example, the notorious e-flat in the adagio of the first sonata, where many think  he didn't remember to add the flat as an accidental when using the "Dorian" key-signature.)  That probably accounts for the discrepancies in the two editions and why the older players play a C instead of a D--they were using older editions.

June 10, 2009 at 12:44 AM ·

Bill's points are excellent.  Moreover, if you have Galamian's edition, there should be a facsimile of the manuscript, so you can look at it and decide for yourself (with bowings, this is often necessary).  Of course, I am assuming we are talking about the Siciliano in the S&Ps and not some other.

Sharelle - for folks who are trying to figure out which note the composer intended in an ambiguous situation, music theory can sometimes be of assistance.   Certain chord progressions are much more common than others, particularly in baroque or high classical pieces.  Thus, if a note seems ambiguous in the music of someone like Bach, it is much more likely to be the note that creates a chord that would be used in that particular key at that particular point than a note that creates some odd chord.  That is the point of the language you have highlighted.  However, whether or not this is important to you depends on your interest in this kind of theory and whether you want to inform your knowledge of the music with it.  You can certainly get along quite well without it.

June 10, 2009 at 02:52 AM ·

The autograph, which is reproduced in the Galamian edition, clearly has d, not c.

June 10, 2009 at 03:31 AM ·

I'm not sure where Christopher Ciampoli got his theory from, but this passage is based on a very common chord progression. Counting 8th beats the progression is I - IV -I(6/4) - V - I. The sixth beat acts as a dominant with the D or with the C, however the D is just an embellishment, but it's still on the dominant. You need to learn your theory by listening, not just through a visual analysis.

June 10, 2009 at 11:38 AM ·

thanks for the great responses.

i wonder if bach ever heard his s and p performed formally as solo violin in his days,,,

June 10, 2009 at 12:04 PM ·

"i wonder if bach ever heard his s and p performed formally as solo violin in his days,,,"

In addition to his musical abilities in other areas, Bach was a good violinist and might have been able to play them himself.  But I think he wrote them as "exercises," just like much of his greatest keyboard music--the English and French Suites, the Partitas, the French Overture, the Italian Concerto and even the Goldberg Variations were all published as part of his Klavier-Uebungen, "Keyboard Exercises." 

There were probably violinists in his circle who could and did play them, and they actually seem to have circulated widely in manuscript among violinists in the second half of the 18th century.  I think they were written for violinists to struggle with and enjoy privately, not for public performance.  A lot of 18th century music was written more for the enjoyment of the musicians than for public performance.  It wasn't until Joachim began to perform the S&Ps in concerts in the later 19th century that they began to be played publicly.

Before that, Schumann and Mendelssohn felt the need to provide piano accompaniments for public performances.  There just wasn't any venue for performing solo violin music (as opposed, for example, to chamber music with keyboard) before Joachim insisted on performing the S&Ps before an audience.  We're all violinists, of course, and we really dig these works, but after all, for non-violinists, solo violin music isn't easy to listen to.

June 10, 2009 at 12:44 PM ·

It really was not until the 20th century that violinists began to perform them publicly with any regularity, and prior to WWII, I think those violinists were a fairly small group (Milstein, Menuhin and Rene Benedetti come to mind).  Menuhin made the first recording of the complete S&Ps (available on Naxos).  Ultimately, I think it fell to Szeryng to really popularize them with his recordings.

June 10, 2009 at 01:00 PM ·

...they were written for violinists to struggle with and enjoy privately...

I knew it: they were written for us v.commers.

June 10, 2009 at 01:27 PM ·

"those violinists were a fairly small group (Milstein, Menuhin and Rene Benedetti come to mind)."

Szigeti, too.  But even today, while certain movements--the Chaconne, the E major Preludio, for example--are performed more often, performances of whole sonatas or partitas are not that frequent.  Apart from violinists taking up the challenge for their own edification, the Sonatas and Partitas are disseminated largely through recordings. 

June 10, 2009 at 02:22 PM ·

good ones guys.

marianne, i am not a violin teacher but here is an opinion:)

if i do teach violin tomorrow, not how to play but how i like how one sounds like:), i will mandate every student to play all chords first in separate bow, then in slow slur and last and least, in double stops.  over 7 days,  separate bows for 2 days, slur for 3 days and only final 2 days in double stops.  

i really think we need more emphasis on ear training than finger training and double stopping is a prime example.  hear and know every single note first before putting them together.  no need to rush.  no sense to put the fingers down unless our brain/ears can anticipate the correct sound.

when we see those masters double stopping like a stroll in the park, we marvel.  well, they have paid their dues for a long time, doing the basics behind the door:)

June 10, 2009 at 02:43 PM ·

My kids were taught to do double stops scales- thirds, sixes, octaves, tenths, way before they tackled the "easiest" Bach partita. Maybe that helps build the foundation. Of course, it involves a lot more than scales to play them well. If I were the teacher (and parent too), I wouldnt rush into Bach S&P. To play it mechanically without musicality and appreciation of the intricacies involved, would be disrespectful, wasteful... Just my humble thoughts as a non-musician parent.

June 10, 2009 at 04:18 PM ·

I find that in the very distant past I changed this "chord" in my old Schirmer edition (Edited by Eduard Herrmann) from C'n'F to  D and F. I was too mean to go out and buy the Carl Flesch edition, which was supposedly "based on the urtext". At that time (1963) I'd been consulting one of those olde photostat editions of an "original" manuscript preparatory to taking an Ivy League Mus.B. exam. in the U.K. I had to try to impress the eminent musicologist Thurston Dart.

Actually, both make perfectly good harmonic sense, but the D'n'F is less routine and this is why some old editors might have thought it a mistake.

June 10, 2009 at 04:39 PM ·

"I wouldnt rush into Bach S&P. To play it mechanically without musicality and appreciation of the intricacies involved, would be disrespectful, wasteful..."

I'm an amateur violinist.  Though I've hacked my way through much of these works, and I've struggled extensively with some of them, I don't have the technical foundation to play them well.  I've listened to and enjoyed many wonderful recordings of them that are so much better than anything I could achieve.  Yet I don't feel I'm wasting my time struggling with them and experiencing them by playing them, however atrociously.  You can enjoy them as challenges to see how close you can come to playing them well and every time you play them you can discover something new in them.  As I wrote earlier, I think that was precisely Bach's intention--he meant them as exercises to challenge and give pleasure to violinists, more than for public performance.  I think every violinist, regardless of ability, should experience these works by trying to play at least some of them at some point in their life.

June 10, 2009 at 04:44 PM ·

Bill, I agree with what you've mentioned. What I meant by "wasteful" is more in the context of kids. When teachers assign a particular (perhaps difficult)  piece to my child. I am a little happy (oh yes, he gets to try this piece, finally!), and a little apprehensive - why? Many times, kids finish off a piece and never pick it up again, at a later time, when they have acquired more skills and musical understanding. It's like - I've done that when I was XX yrs old - but there is still so much to be gained from the piece. So in that respect, it is a "waste" to have played that piece when the kid could only get a fracfion out of it. Of course, ideally, they should revisit it later.

June 10, 2009 at 06:49 PM ·

Interesting to me, this part of the discussion on the S&P as etudes vs performance pieces. I once asked my nieces which Bach S&P they had done (they were fairly advanced) and they said "none"; which I thought was such a loss. Of course, they probably  have  the foundation to tackle them now or later if they wish (neither is currently seriously playing). That is in contrast to my experience hearing my daughter struggle through the fugue without her bow technique being able to handle double stops well. As someone remarked to me, you might as well hack through some of the best chords ever written. That helped some. I think the "disrespectful" part applies more to someone who might boast that, "I have a 12-year old student playing the Bach (whichever),"  when in fact it has been played with just too many deficiencies.

June 10, 2009 at 06:57 PM ·

I read that prior to the 20th century they were used primarily as etudes and not as performing pieces. In fact, a few movements were found etude books of the early 19th century.

June 10, 2009 at 07:01 PM ·

"I have a 12-year old student playing the Bach (whichever)," 

Baaa,,,my 1 yo could do that,,,oh yeah, not Bach, just  Ba Ba..

June 10, 2009 at 07:13 PM ·

What Bill said.  I have played all of the S&Ps including the Chaconne, which I play at least once a year in its entirety.  I playe some better than other but probably have not played any of them very well.  Nonetheless, I have enjoyed playing them and learned an enormous amount of technique while doing so.  In some sense, they are a complete course in technique.  There is a value to "hacking" your way through them, although most of us probably would not want to play them publicly.

June 10, 2009 at 08:17 PM ·

Margaret, you've said it better than me, that's what I meant about the "disrespectful" part. :)

June 10, 2009 at 09:10 PM ·

For my 2 cents: It does come down to the ear.... hence the descrepencies between the two (Galamian & other counter parts) bach's (Baroque ears) ear vs what we think they heard; What the music was before them and at the time of thier student days and what they were trying to get away from!  Not much different today.  I recall this from my Music Major days back in 1983-1885.

June 10, 2009 at 09:43 PM ·

I appreciate Al's opinion on a way to learn to play double stops and chords.  My teacher has a related method, which I am working with.

On the other hand, I still don't think it is reasonable, or courteous, to state in this forum that one's child "sucks" at sight reading, especially when the child is able to make an attempt at reading the work in question.  I think it would be better to say that it was not one of her (numerous) strengths, or that she struggles with it, or something else not so dismissive.  I know the child is loved.  I doubt that by any objective calculation she is actually very bad at sight reading.  Why would you say such a mean thing?

I went to a lesson last night at an unusual time and when I arrived, a teenaged boy was finishing his lesson.  Found his father in the back room where I went to unpack my fiddle, and I said, just chit chatting, "Oh your son is a much better player than I am!"  And what did I get in response?  "I don't think he's a very good player."  My teacher says the kid has substantial talent and played beautifully in her recital this past weekend.  Why are we not being as polite about our own children when talking to strangers as we would be about the stranger's child?  This stuff really hurts kids' feelings.

June 11, 2009 at 12:18 AM ·

marianne, you've made a great point and you are absolutely right. 

"Why would you say such a mean thing?"  actually that is how she puts it, that she sucks at sightreading.  i think it is just an expression.

June 11, 2009 at 03:39 AM ·

"prior to the 20th century they were used primarily as etudes and not as performing pieces."

Bach's first biographer, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, wrote in 1802:  "The Violin Solos have long been considered by the finest players to be the best instructors for the instrument."

Etudes don't have to be musically insipid, of course.  Chopin and Paganini, and Bach's own Inventions and Sinfonias and the Well-Tempered Clavier demonstrate this.

June 11, 2009 at 02:36 PM ·

I need to clarify a typo.  My school years 1983-1985.

June 11, 2009 at 08:19 PM ·

 like Bach,  I preferred the original;)

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