Bach Partita No 2 in D minor, Allemande: to shift, or not to shift?
After the summer brake I just started with the Allemande. Since I knew it would be next in lessons I looked at different scores with and without fingerings. The fingerings included quite some shifting which makes my life easier since my hands are very small. (I position my left thumb between first and second finger but still).
Last lesson we did not have too much time due to other topics but my teacher told me to stay as far as possible in first position. I will do that.
But I am curious how all the knowledgeable people here approach this.
Buri wrote in an old post: „ On a techncil side it is good general advice to play Bah in the lower psotions. Having said that, I don`t, much to my embarassment.“
(My background, adult, just starting my 5th year of private lessons)
Thanks a lot
Joseph Szigeti's book "Szigeti on the Violin" has a great discussion of the Allemande to Bach's 2nd Partita in Chapter 18 "devoted To Bach and thus...." Specifically the Chapter starts with the Allemande and details fingerings and the tempo changes Szigeti used.
George Enescu's fingered and edited Bach parts are available on imslp.
The fingerings my teacher gave me include quite a lot of shifting. That whole Bach-in-first-position-at-all-costs thing always seemed rather dogmatic to me.
Enescu's fingerings are quite "sophisticated," definitely not shift-free. But his Bach book is a wonderful bargain at that price (0) - for sure - or can be bought AND mailed to you for about $10 (US): www.sergeblanc.com
Szigeti's version is interesting, if you had his long fingers. Staying always in first position for this allemande is not a good idea; that gives you too many extra string changes, 4th finger extensions and changes of strings on a half-step. Use second position often for this one, it is only a half-step away from first, which can be done with the crawl-shift.
I think the decision whether or not to do string changes instead of stretching or shifting to stay on the same string can depend (in some situations) on the evenness of one's instrument across different strings (in other situations it may depend on one's interpretation). For example, one of my violins has a D string that plays with the same richness as does moving up the G string. Unfortunately (for me) when I gave my granddaughter the choice of any of my violins for her own (after about 8 years of lessons) that is the violin she chose.
Thanks for all your thoughts.
Bach is much more beautiful and true to the original spirit in the low positions.
Bach more beautiful and true in low positions? If you did any research on how Baroque-era violinists played, you'd know this is not true.
Instead of thinking of shifts, I would encourage you to think of extensions.
Szeryng's edition is solid, for anyone looking for fingerings/bowings.
I think utilizing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd positions are all valid and should be considered. Simply staying in first position presents problems both technical and musical.
I did do my research.
The way I have always thought about Bach is that it should have the SOUND of first position. That doesn't mean you always stay there, but you should avoid positions higher than about 4th on the lower strings because the color is just too different. There are, of course, exceptions to this. For example, the bariolage in the Prelude of Partita 3 obviously requires higher positions, and in some of the slow movements it is nice to use the color of third or fourth position in some places.
"Hopefully I can do a bit of shifting.... we will see. I will try to negotiate 2nd position :-)"
Of course I have no business playing Bach, as I am a fiddler originally (classically-trained in composition and piano), but I am deep into it, and am mystified why most people start the Allemande in third position. It seems obvious to me that it's a first-position passage, as is the beginning of the second part.
paul: two problems with starting in the allemande in first position. First, the string crossing between Bb and C# will be going back and forth over two strings, which will sound bumpy and non-legato, and is a lot of unnecessary effort to smooth out when you can finger it so that it's over one string. Second, doing it in first position means that you're crossing over to the A string for the B flat (and possibly the open A). The A is a much brighter tone color generally than the D or the G, and this disrupts the line. Keeping the string crossings to more musical places avoids these color shifts and helps the violinist to phrase more clearly.
The original music does not indicate legato in that first complete measure (except in the three 1/16ths following the C#), and the string crossing from G on the D string to the open A doesn't disrupt anything. See--now this may be a fiddler thing--but I have no problem getting the C# and getting back to the Bb on the A string. String changes can be lovely and smooth, or uplifting and danceable. Here, given the bowings Bach wrote, I don't see any reason to think that he didn't want a little leap to the C# and off of it. I don't see why I ought to fear the nice little bounce there that Bach obviously intended--I would say that this is precisely the "musical place" for a string crossing. I think you folks should play more traditional fiddle music to understand how to play dance music. Observe Irish fiddle master Kevin Burke if you want to understand how to do these string crossings, IMO.
' Irene Chen
One detail of my fingering philosophy in the Bach: the triplets. When string crossing occur during a slurred triplet, it sounds awkward to me. As I said, "studentish," as if someone were taking the easy way out.
Can anyone point to a performance where the Allemande is played in first position? I'd love to hear it.
@Scott--Yes, good point. If I see an interesting fingering that someone does or I recognize another viable option, I will experiment with it, and I do change things (In fact I just did this in a section of the mighty Chaconne). And I did experiment with the standard start in 3rd position here, but at least at this point, the first-position start seems more like dance music to me, and I suspect that is how it was originally done.
Show me where they hop on the 3rd beat:
Nearly ALL baroque-era music references dance music, except when it was references opera or Palestrina/Gabrieli, et al. When I play Irish music in a session, rarely are people dancing; it is dance music for listening. Though it is danceable, and since I play for dancing also, I can say with confidence that I play the music similarly in both contexts, but I can take more liberties in the session. As with Bach. And while someone might honk on that C# and break the flow of the music, it just isn't that hard to make it musical, which of course is what Bach had in mind.
Your fingering depends on two things: First your vision of the piece. How do you want it to sound? Second: your abilities: Safe and in tune is better than a better sounding version where the intonation is shaky. Also your individual features (small hands etc.) figure into this. Many of the most famous violinists have/had above average size hands and their fingerings are not necessarily optimal for the rest of us.
I think if you are new to 2nd and 3rd position, the Allemande will teach you a lot! But I would support that with some studies from Wohlhardt and Dont and Kayser which move around between 1st 2nd and 3rd positions. There are a lot of them but by paging through a book of studies you can find the ones that emphasize that issue in a few minutes.
"but I do in fact play this movement in first position until the 14th complete measure. I guess I need to record this eventually, because...uh, seems to work for me."
You're going to have to wait until I get a better handle on the Sarabande--that thing is hard! IMO, anyway...you probably have it nailed, but I am still getting that one where I want it. I had to sit down with the Allemande after our conversation, and I realize I slip into a little half-position work in the 2nd and 7th measures, but yeah...I guess it's shocking, but playing most of it in first position seems reasonable to me.
Thank you all for this interesting discussion.
Paul, I agree that the left thumb comes into use at times in Bach. Much more satisfying. Don't knock it til you've tried it.
I start the Allemanda with open D and quickly shift up to third to keep that line on D.
I start in 3rd position and--gasp!--don't bother to play the open string unison. Same for the second section. Why not? I just don't. Yes, I know Bach wrote it. Whatevs.
I start in the 3rd position so I can vibrate on the long D and long E with the second finger.
I play the D in 6th position using my pinky toe, but I hum a "D" softly to get the proper resonance.
Julie, if you really want to hear what the piece sounds like in first position, why don't you play it in first position yourself? How about we make a pact: you play the opening in first position, Paul and I will play it in second position and we will compare our impressions afterwards?
"I start in 3rd position and--gasp!--don't bother to play the open string unison. Same for the second section. Why not? I just don't. Yes, I know Bach wrote it. Whatevs."
I've never heard about thumb fingering before but that's pretty cool!
Don't turn this around on me!
Julie, here’s the link to a great performance of the Partita, where the violinist also happens to start the Allemande in first position:
Roman, I'm not sure how you know she is in first position? No guarantee that a baroque violinist will use first. Here is Kuijken playing it in second (no one tell Julie about this, she will feel vindicated):
I know personally that Monica Huggett, Sigiswald Kuijken, and Elizabeth Blumenstock starts on second position. These wonderful violinists have quite different views regarding chin on or chin off, but that particularly fingering works for them. And for me too. :)
Guglielmus, you can clearly tell she reaches A string on that first run
Here's a live video of RP showing that she does play the part at the beginning in 1st position, but goes into 2nd a couple of bars later:
A Flesch edition has that first scale sul G, which makes it sound like Tchaikovsky, or a student desperately trying to win the audition.
Joel, that’s the funniest thing I’ve read today!
Personally I'm in the mainly-first-position school of thought.