Rhythm in bar 17 of first movement of Bach's Sonata in E, BWV 1016

Edited: August 2, 2018, 4:53 PM · Does anybody have access to a manuscript copy of the third of Bach's sonatas for violin and keyboard? I've heard many different interpretations of the rhythm of the second half of bar 17 of the first movement.

This is the version I'm used to:

But I've also heard recordings that play with this rhythm:

I've also heard recordings along these lines:

What are people's thoughts on the matter/experiences with this passage?

Replies (6)

August 3, 2018, 12:39 PM · Just saw that there was a trill on the A in the second version; I've never heard it played there, always on the G# that follows it.
August 4, 2018, 9:48 AM · The version I have is the Wiener Urtext Edition by Schott, which is based on a variety of sources.
It looks like your version 2 above.

The trill is, harmonically, a deceptive cadence: by itself, it seems to emphasize movement towards E major. Yet if you look at the piano harmony, the downbeat which follows is clearly in c#minor, as is the whole passage. I'd be tempted to do something there to make it special. A little rubato, maybe a subito piano on the C# minor chord.

It's hard to know what to make of the trill on the A, which isn't clearly marked: it should have a natural sign because the B is sharped throughout the bar. Obviously, you don't want an augmented 2nd trill...

August 5, 2018, 12:26 PM · This could be an example of the baroque performance practice of unequal notes; the player has a lot of freedom with this. I like the look of version 1. Bach writes out a lot of his ornaments. the last group of notes is an appogiatura, a trill, and a turn. A different composer might use abbreviations. The position of the slurs on the downward scale are good. It emphasizes the first note of each pair, clashing with the keyboard notes.
August 9, 2018, 4:52 PM · Thanks for your thoughts, Scott and Joel. The vaguely polyrhythmic nature of the first one is perhaps what made me question it. I didn't know if it was necessarily in-keeping with Bach's general patterns of written-out ornamentation, but he was highly innovative so it wouldn't surprise me. I definitely prefer the first one!
Edited: August 9, 2018, 7:08 PM · I have the Henle Urtext, which is similar to your first example.

Henle says of the six sonatas there are only three movements in Bach's hand. Henle relies on a copy made by Bach's son in law Altnickol.

Maybe you don't want to stick too slavishly to the text which is only an approximation anyway. Play it slowly till you have the underlying rhythm right, then free yourself and play those ornaments beautifully.

There are some nice recordings out there on various streaming services. A new one by Nicholas Dautricourt, an older one by Mela Tenenbaum that is quite lovely.

Edited: August 9, 2018, 7:05 PM · I assume this is one of the many movements for which there is no manuscript in Bach's hand. Interesting that the Henle and Wiener Urtexts disagree. Are they based on different sources? I have the Barenreiter Urtext at home and am on vacation, so I am unable to weigh in with whatever light that one could shed. However, I think you probably need to look at how Bach treats any similar phrases in the same movement (or any other slow movement), assuming there are any. Good luck!

Quick update: IMSLP has the Barenreiter urtext (http://ks.imslp.net/files/imglnks/usimg/5/5e/IMSLP497420-PMLP622008-bachNBAVI,1sonataIIIBWV1016.pdf). Its measure 17 appears to be the same as version 1 in the original post. IMSLP also has a Breitkopf and Hartel edition from 1860 which appears to be the same as version 2 in the original post.

Have fun! The Bach sonatas for violin and continuo are wonderful and deserve more attention and respect than the seem to get.

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