Bach partida in d minor 1st movement

July 29, 2016 at 03:24 PM · Hi everyone. I have a really important audition for a new teacher in a few weeks and I'm playing the first movement of the d minor partida. I have never played it before and I am in between teachers. What are some of the do's and dont's for this piece, meaning things like vibrato,bow strokes, when or when not to use open strings etc. Also any addition tips would be great!!

I did forget to mention it but I've never played a Bach partida before. My previous teachers never got to it, but this audition requires a solo bach and a concerto

Replies (18)

July 29, 2016 at 03:51 PM · Are you able to play a piece you know better? That would make more sense to me in an audition. I don't think you will do yourself justice playing something completely new to you.

That said, I would suggest:

* Bowstroke - you can use detache - but something a bit more detached and lower in the bow is also appropriate.

* Vibrato - Use sparingly for emphasis (A completely no-vib approach is also valid)

* Open strings - often allowed but even in the Baroque period people would climb up the D or A to keep a particular passage in one tone.

July 29, 2016 at 03:59 PM · A few weeks! Well, unless you're "all that" on the violin, I don't recommend you try to learn a movement of solo Bach in such little time -- for an audition! -- with no teacher!!

Also, I agree with Chris's comment that playing Bach with very little vibrato may be "valid" in terms of the principles of so-called historically-informed performance (HIP), but the whole point of an audition piece is to show off both your full range of technical skills and your musicality. For example if you can play double-stops in tune, the Bach Allemande will not showcase your skill because it has only a trivial few.

What's the last thing you worked up to a fine polish with your previous teacher? That's what you should play, especially if it was a concerto movement or a show-piece.

July 29, 2016 at 04:07 PM · I teach it quite often. Here are some pointers:

1. Start by figuring out logical fingerlings and bowing if you don't have any. I now teach using Barenreiter, but the Galamian edition is ok too. Look for places to use hook bowing a, such as bar 8. Sometimes it's more musical to extend 4 rather than change strings. An example is beat 3 of bar 11.

2. Don't get stuck beating in 8, a common trap. Look for larger meters. Think of it in 2. It'll flow better.

3. There's not much in the way of melody,except for maybe the first bar (if you can call even that a melody). It's all patterns and sequences. The interpretation of the piece is what you do with and between each pattern. Can you recognize the cadences? They are points of repose, such as the endings of each large section. But there are other cadences too, such as the downbeat of 23, or the 3rd beat of bar 27. Don't blow through cadences without doing something--you have to figure out how important each one is: is it a big moment (like the end of the piece), or a minor moment? A little rubato is fine. But the piece really gets monotonous when it's played with a moto perpetuo feeling.

4. Within each pattern, the tension is generally building or dissipating. In other words, crescendo or diminuendo. But seldom staying at the same level. Show contour to each pattern.

5. Play the 16th note pickup in each section correctly. It's neither a 32nd nor an 8th.

6. This may be cheating, but I don't care: don't bother playing the unisons indicated in bar 1 and 17. I'm sure others will disagree, and Bach does seem to notate both stopped and open strings on the dotted 8ths, but I say So What. Sue me. If you vibrate, it'll be out of tune. If you don't vibrate, it'll still be out of tune. I say use a nice healthy sonorous sound, and forget the open string unison. It doesn't add anything.

July 29, 2016 at 05:31 PM · If you're playing for a potential new teacher, it makes more sense to play what you've most recently learned with your previous teacher, unless it's been ages since you've had a teacher.

As far as I know, when you're taking that first trial "audition" lesson for a new teacher, the most important thing tends not to be how well you actually play now, but how teachable you are.

A teacher wants to get a sense of your mechanics -- basically, what you do well and what they'll need to fix. But what is often really important is how you respond to their feedback -- how quickly you can make requested changes (i.e., how fast you learn), your openness to being taught, your concentration and engagement with the lesson, and other factors that help determine whether or not it'll be a successful pupil relationship.

July 29, 2016 at 10:20 PM · This teacher requires a Bach solo partida for audition and my previous teachers never had me play them. That is why I am trying to learn this. Trust me it's not ideal

July 29, 2016 at 10:37 PM · PartiTa not partiDa!

Cheers Carlo

July 29, 2016 at 11:13 PM · That's an unusual audition requirement, but okay.

How about the E Major Giga? That's the last piece in the book. I think that's a bit easier than the D Minor Allemande and not as long either.

If you've set your mind on the D Minor Allemande, then one of the suggestions I've heard from many teachers about this piece is that there are many sections that you can interpret in terms of a conversation between a lower, sterner voice, and an upper, more curious or youthful voice. There are a few sequences that can be played with lifts of the bow, and these can inject more light-hearted moments into the piece -- let that happen. It's a dance, not a dirge.

I further suggest that you don't overdo the rubato or get too carried away with long "expressive" tenuto notes. And don't play a damned harmonic every chance you get. You lose opportunities for rich coloring when you do that. But because this is an audition, I don't recommend that you stifle your vibrato. Shape the phrases with your dynamics and manage your sound point carefully. Go through the whole thing and plan out your bow distribution. Remember that these pieces were composed by someone who understood the violin quite thoroughly.

2nd position is your friend.

Scott Cole's comments are quite good IMO.

July 30, 2016 at 03:27 AM · Joseph Szigeti fully described the performance of the D minor Allemande in his book "Szigeti on the Violin" with full annotation of the score and if you private message me with your email address I will send you a pdf copy of that chapter.

You can also hear his performance of it here:

He was not shy about using vibrato.

July 30, 2016 at 04:16 AM · How would I private message you?

July 30, 2016 at 04:10 PM · Click on my name and at the "site" click on "CONTACT."

Be quick, because I'm leaving town in 5 hours until Sunday night and not taking my computer. I'll check for your email before I go.

July 30, 2016 at 06:36 PM · The PM button no longer works as of late... :(

July 30, 2016 at 08:23 PM ·

July 31, 2016 at 08:15 AM · @Krisztian. Thank you for making the superlative effort with your English.

Cheers Carlo

July 31, 2016 at 08:24 AM · Re Scott's comments - I am sure he's speaking from a position of greater knowledge than me, but I personally would reverse points 5 and 6.

On the "pickup notes" I would assume there is licence to shorten or lengthen them for emphasis. This is an era where you can't always assume that when there are two quavers written you should play two quavers. [OK, that advice has very limited application to Bach, but I think it applies here]

And then on the double-stops - Bach clearly wrote them as unison double-stops - and for violins that were much less reliable in their strings' intonation than today - he probably knew what was likely to happen with a stopped D against an open D...... ;)

July 31, 2016 at 01:01 PM · Fingerings and bowings -- this is an example of a piece where they are integral to the overall interpretation. Do you stay in first position and take an occasional open string? Yes, that's fine -- if you want to. I think it's fine also to keep lines clean and extract a few efficiencies using second and third position occasionally, or half position, I don't this piece requires more than that. Too much third position and the character is changed by the different tone.

As for bowings, the bowings that are used by a master may well differ from those used by an amateur because the master can develop and maintain tone in any place on the bow consuming only a small amount of bow, and sometimes for us mere mortals this is not practical.

The D minor Allemande is the first movement of solo Bach that I learned. I asked my teacher what edition to get, and his answer was, "Paul, it doesn't matter, because I'm just going to change everything anyway." And then we took two whole lessons to finger and bow it together, and I learned a great deal in that process, they were fantastic lessons.

I agree with Krisztian that you should not worry about playing it as fast as the fastest recordings. If you find a professional recording that is relatively slow, that is a stamp of approval for that tempo.

July 31, 2016 at 03:27 PM · Chris,

My comment about the pickup note comes from so many students who start learning the movement and simply play the pickup notes incorrectly. It's not an interpretive thing--usually just a rhythmic error. I find the same issue in the first movement of the b-minor Partita. People just learning the piece have trouble getting the length of the pickup, although in that case it's the chord that follows that everyone is focused on. I'd just say get everything correct, and then interpret. And yes, my suggestion to drop the unison is rather indefensible...but I still do it.

Someone mentioned listening to Kremer. Probably not my first choice, especially for tempi. I noticed years ago that while everyone else's Bach needed 3 CDs, he only needed 2. I respect his playing, but he's kind of a crazy guy when it comes to his Bach.

Paul suggested the E Major Gigue. Actually, not an easy piece. You really have to have a refined bow technique to pull this one off. But played well, it can show a prospective teacher more about your bow technique (or lack of) than the Allemande. You have to be very creative with fingerings in that one.

July 31, 2016 at 08:47 PM · The unison D - it occurs to me that one way of dealing with this problem would be to start the open D a tiny fraction of a second before the bow plays the fingered D on the G, hopefully giving just enough time for the player to very quickly adjust the fingered note into tune with the open string before anyone notices that maybe it isn't. Perhaps a bit of à la Heifetz here ;)

August 1, 2016 at 01:31 AM · Agonizing about the unison D sounds like a good dissertation topic.

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