Bach a minor 3rd mvmt bowing

September 5, 2019, 8:36 AM · My youngest (age 10) is working on Bach a minor concerto and is about to start the third movement. I was wondering if people had thoughts on what bowing to use at the start -- slur in groups of three eighth notes, or slur two eighths with the third eighth upbow (she calls it hiccup bowing).

The urtext I have is marked with slurs in groups of three eighths. I consulted the two "original" copies on IMSLP and one clearly shows the same. The other is really careless in the drawing of the slurs -- in some measures it looks like only two notes are slurred, but the slurs are not consistent.

My older child originally learned this piece from the unrevised Suzuki book 7 which uses the slurs in groups of three. However, the revised Suzuki book 7 has changed to the hiccup bowing. I'm not sure if that choice was made based on research or for pedagogical reasons.

There are valid recordings of both. Oistrakh and Stern do the slurs, Joshua Bell and Julia Fischer the hiccup bowing.

Which brings me back to my daughter. In general we try to stick to the composer's intent in Baroque music. But she, in particular, isn't great at playing at the frog, so from a pedagogical perspective doing the hiccup bowing would benefit her.


Replies (7)

Edited: September 5, 2019, 10:04 AM ·

A look at the original Bach ms. clearly shows groups of 3 being slurred. The movement works better slurred in 3 for dynamic shaping and also in bringing out harmony changes. You will also see the same slurring in Bach's transcription of the piece in g minor for harpsichord. So no, the Suzuki version is not a scholarly edition.

It seems senseless to alter the bowing for pedagogical reasons. Also, the 2+1 bowing can get to be quite monotonous. After all Bach did play the violin.

September 5, 2019, 11:30 AM · It's in 9/8 meter. When I am in a wicked mood I will do some Irish Slip-Jig bowings with that one; slurring over main beats. I don't think I will ever do that in public. My opinion is that Bach has a lot of written-out ornaments, things that look like turns or single neighboring tones, and those can be slurred.
September 5, 2019, 12:49 PM · I think both ways could be valid.

As others have noted, Bach wrote it slurred, but it would be perfectly acceptable to do 2-1 or even a mixture. Like every violinist, your daughter should choose (with her teacher) based on what kind of sound she wants to make and what she can play well.

The goal should be to capture the beauty of the line and also preserve the rhythmic dance-like quality of the piece (it's basically a jig). But where you strike the balance is up to the performer.

When violinists of 40 or 50 years ago, like Oistrakh or Stern, played Bach they were probably more influenced by pedagogical ancestors like Leopold Auer, who were rooted in 19th and early 20th century practice and were not informed at all about baroque performance customs.

However, there are modern baroque influenced recordings (like Isabelle Faust) that do the 2-1 bowing and do it very effectively. Faust plays the Allegro Assai very fast, and she is playing with a baroque bow style so there's that to keep in mind.

The 2-1 gives it a more bouncy, dancelike quality and that is fetching. But the slurred bow lets you play more sostenuto and you don't have to emphasize the first beat so much.

Edited: September 6, 2019, 8:22 PM · Perhaps one or two 2+1's can be inserted for dramatic effect.

If your daughter performs this with a pianist, get a simplified accompaniment such as "Frustrated Accompanist." The Suzuki piano part is so dreadfully busy that if your daughter is playing a fractional violin she'll stand no chance even if the lid of the piano is entirely closed.

September 5, 2019, 6:14 PM · Agree 100% with Bruce. Slur three.
September 5, 2019, 7:37 PM · Thank you for the feedback. It gives me even more food for thought. I am going to let her try it out both ways and see what she likes and see if she can give me a reason why and then we will go from there. She looked up the early copies with me so she understands that either version is potentially valid.
Edited: September 6, 2019, 7:19 AM · Three to the bow is the best way in my opinion, otherwise you get unmusical accents (like a nail sticking through the wall) on the back end of the beat. I’m sure Bach would approve of the 3 note slurs and some of those slurs Mr. Heifetz used in the Chaconne on the scale runs to make it sound less labored. In the Baroque era, composers left a lot of things such as articulations and ornamentation to the performer’s discretion.

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