Barton Pine's edition of unaccompanied Bach

Edited: September 27, 2019, 1:33 PM · I've collected most of the editions of unaccompanied Bach, always searching for better solutions to the gnarly passages. Anyway I just got the Rachel Barton Pine edition (had to wait a while, because it was sold out at Shar) and I'm super impressed.

The approach emphasizes clarity and the fingerings seem designed for mortals, not just world-class soloists. The emphasis seems to be on clarity and and it reflects modern approaches to left hand technique.

If you add this to your Galamian and your Szeryng it will give you a third perspective that is very valuable.

For the record, I believe in working from a minimally edited Urtext (Barenreiter) and penciling in fingerings (as few as possible -- only the essential ones).

But it's it's incredibly helpful to consult multiple editions to see how others approach it -- because no one approach works for everybody.

Which reminds me to put in a plug for the Online edition of Henle Urtext -- called the Henle Library -- which will run from a PC or a tablet. Electronic publication allows Henle to package in some cases multiple sets of fingerings which you can choose to display or not.

The Henle unaccompanied Bach features Midori, Christian Tetzlaff and Igor Ozim fingerings and you can quickly toggle back and forth between them.

It's just incredibly interesting to see how they agree and disagree. And I'm sure they would acknowledge that those fingerings and bowings only represent a snapshot in time. Everybody's Bach is a living breathing thing always evolving.

Replies (12)

September 27, 2019, 3:38 PM · My teacher says having multiple opinions on the same thing, not just Bach, is helpful for every musician. It can help inform your own decisions (should you choose to do something different)
September 27, 2019, 4:59 PM · I've seen her edition, but I don't own it (yet). I was impressed as well, though I have to say it looks a lot like my son's Szeryng version after his teacher changed things. My son has the same teacher heritage as Rachel Barton Pine, so I guess that isn't too surprising.

I didn't know about the Henle digital editions. That's pretty amazing! I definitely need to check those out. Thinks for sharing about that.

September 28, 2019, 12:30 AM · Thomas, do you mean this one?

Unfortunately it seems it is not available in UK yet.

October 2, 2019, 2:33 PM · I think that's a reference to a Pine Bach recording. What I'm talking about is the Carl Fischer edition that Pine edited. I'd be surprised if Shar won't ship it to the UK. I buy sheet music from the UK all the time and have it shipped here.

Edited: October 5, 2019, 12:55 AM · Re ~ Barton-Pine edited fingerings/bowing's in the Carl Fischer Edition of Bach's Unaccompanied Violin Sonatas & Partitas ~

As a Violinist with both Franco - Belgium & Heifetz - Milstein fused pedigree I find comments referencing Galamian & Szeryng approaches to the Bach Unaccompanied Violin Sonatas & Partitas distressing ... What truly shaped
Henryk Szeryng's approach, violinistically, in the actual physical playing of Bach's Unaccompanied Sonatas & Partitas, was imbedded very early on by his involved studies of the Violin, itself, with Carl Flesch. In and of itself, on the outside, this is 'acceptable' to theorists, yet re the 'inside', the innermost soul, my friend-colleague, (both under same London Concert Artist Mgmt.),
Great Violinist, Henryk Szeryng, was conflicted due to (I believe in part) the dominating 'gestalt' of Carl Flesch frigid technical left hand discipline & only one way, so much so that right hand bow arm's were near xerox copies of Must Do's despite majestic & deeply spiritual qualities inherent in all works of Johann Sebastian Bach for Violin, whether his towering "Musical Bible" - Unaccompanied Sonatas & Partitas, or the Brandenburg's, especially No's IV & V, the Violin & Harpsichord (also Piano) Sonatas, his Violin Concerti of 1 Solo Violin with orchestra or the Double for Two Violins w/Orchestra; the Double Violin & Oboe Concerto w/Orchestra & innumerable string chamber combinations, etc., & etc.!!

Throughout all Bach's Music is a continuous thread of spirituality yet quietly contained deeply within the extraordinary near-'mathematical' perfectly plus rhythmical proportioned 'outline' of Composer & Father, Johann Sebastian Bach, of Twenty Children!!!! Herr Bach served The Church willingly with an inner love for his God, which all of Bach's Music reflects! The greater point I'm attempting to highlight is an obvious observance by All who venture into the Musical World of Johann Sebastian Bach, & to do so with reverent open minds yet already disciplined fingers & bow arms, vitally aware of the 'inner' world of spirituality which summons loosening of iron-clad bowing - just up and down with No Room for the 'Cantilena' qualities as expressed by loving Guitarists, in violinistic termed "chords", but No!! Mister Milstein employed Cantilena (akin to the flowing qualities of the Italian language) consistently in his deeply musically infused spiritual offerings of all Six Unaccompanied Violin Sonatas & Partitas of Bach!! I know this well because Nathan Milstein broke free of Only Auer, absorbing Ysaye, the Franco - Belgium Master, yet bowing in and of himself, which is still a mystery to many violinists, & even to the Great Henryk Szeryng, who later on, sought out Milstein's time to go 'round to Chester Square, to play some unaccompanied Bach to Nathan Milstein! How do I know this? My Iconic violin mentor, NM, shared the rare experience with me! Not interested in repeating NM impressions, I sensed Szeryng had to have reached a point in his own brilliant thinking re Flesch's rigid authoritarian ideas in Bach's heavenly compositional World which then were interfering with his own 'inner' soul's deepened spiritual awakenings & matured ideas to the Profundity of Bach which Henryk Szeryng discussed with me as we recorded a Concerto for Two Violins, Live, & in between the movements, intriguigingly would pause to say words as a Rabbi over Bread prior to our beginning each movement to create an atmosphere of Giving rather than 'performing' for the TV /Audio camera crew's plus our producer amid brightened lights ~ We were on an island of spiritual retreat making (or better said), 'offering' our music 'Up' to the creator which added greatly to an inspired slow movement ... It wasn't long after our recording that my friend, Szeryng, went over to play & listen to Mr. Milstein's ideas regarding the Music of unadorned beauty in Unaccompanied Bach . . .

Despite world acclaim, Ambassador Szeryng obviously decided to (I'll try to paraphrase a Biblical inspired passage) "put away childish things ... to see through a glass more darkly ..." Or something akin to it ~ It is with such life realities in mind, that I suggest current fingerings & 'generic' bowing's of Ms Rachel B.- P., may require updated revision reflecting overpowering ideas of vast spiritual elements in our Violinist's "Musical Bible for The Violin" ~

In conclusion (and not by any means 'The End') I can say Nathan Milstein, my great mentor and friend of 24 Years, went everyday to his Spiritual Alter
of Johann Sebastian Bach, to take Holy Musical Communion on his Violin,
always re-thinking & imagining more innovative bowing's in the Chaconne & throughout ennobled Fugue's, Adagio's, Andante's, Allegro's & Gigue's plus the E Major Partita & all its 'relative's' in line for The Throne of Bach ~

Submitted and Honoured to post this Reply ...

~ from America ~

Elisabeth Matesky

October 4, 2019 ~

Edited: October 5, 2019, 12:36 AM · An additional Word ~

Regarding author of this Discussion, Arthur Boyer's fifth paragraph musings of 'consulting multiple editions to see how others approach it ~ because no one approaches works for everybody ...', how about delving deeply into the original Urtext of Composer, Johann Sebastian Bach's 6 Unaccompanied Violin Sonatas & Partitas to "... see how" Bach, himself, composed his own masterpieces for everyone who followed him?! Nathan Milstein, in his last granted to London BBC Radio private at home Interview stated, "Bach could never have composed the Six Unaccompanied Violin Sonatas and Partitas without being able to play them himself!"

No words can follow those of The Master Violinist, Nathan Milstein, who left a Legacy lived and earned through devout devotion to Bach of over Eighty Two Years just Two Months prior to his Earthly Passing at home in London, on December 21st, 1992 ~

Still Looking Up ...

elisabeth matesky

'Guinea pig' private pupil of Nathan Milstein

*October 5, 2019 ~

October 5, 2019, 6:14 AM · Tangentially related question: did Heifetz ever say anything about Ysaye, as a performer or teacher?
October 6, 2019, 12:34 PM · Spirituality aside, it's my position that if a student is deemed by the teacher to be ready to play Bach,
they should be coming up with their own fingerings and, if needed, bowings.

Only AFTER this process has been done should the student then look at other possibilities. This assumes, of course, that the teacher is able in the first place to guide the student on what may work or what doesn't.

This applies to recordings as well, as I have seen many students "imprint" on whatever the first recording they heard was. We probably all do that, and it's very difficult to unhear something. It infects your playing.

Blindly following the editing of whatever "violin god" you pray to only delays your own intellectual and musical development. The rigid adherence to and transmission of instructions is of course highly valued in many societies and at different times. It's extremely efficient. Which is great if you just value efficiency and submission.

I realize this is somewhat idealistic, as I have had students lacking in the ability to digest and formulate
their own principles: given the chance, they may always come up with awkward, unmusical decisions. In that case, inertia prevails and we teachers follow the course of least resistance: "never mind....just copy my fingerings..."

Someone may claim that so-and-so has "perfect" fingerings that simply can't be bettered. In that case, why reinvent the wheel? Because there is not one wheel. Some are light and skinny for speed, some are fat for rough roads. Students should be taught to to invent the appropriate wheel.

October 7, 2019, 11:03 AM · I agree, Scott. I have a small palm with average fingers. My son has a large palm with long skinny fingers. As a result, we often choose completely different fingerings. He also does different fingerings from his teacher, sometimes on her advice and sometimes by his choice, because he has a totally different body type and hand.

In my experience, though, kids start learning solo Bach before they are quite at the level of being able to do their own fingerings. I would say that is still an emerging skill for my 14yo, and he's already on his fourth S & P. He's just starting to be able to choose appropriate fingerings adequately.

October 9, 2019, 3:42 AM · For those in the UK, you can order this direct from Carl Fischer - mine is on the way.

Shar Music won't ship internationally - big drop off.

Edited: October 13, 2019, 12:06 PM · @Stephen Symchych ~ (11)

Please accept true apologies for my delayed response to your Question of October 5, 2019, asking if Mr. 'Heifetz ever said anything about Ysaye as a performer or teacher?'

In the many years I studied & continued knowing Jascha Heifetz, I never heard JH speak openly about the great Franco - Belgium Violinist ~ This is not to say nor suggest Heifetz was in any way, unappreciative of Eugen Ysaye ~ No doubt, Heifetz had to have admired the countenance of the
Man and distinct large personality of Ysaye, who was a composer of major proportions, starting with his extraordinary Six Solo Violin Sonatas, the 3rd of which, was rapidly absorbed into the concert touring violinist repertoire = 'Unaccompanied Violin Sonata solo violinist repertoire of Ysaye's uniquely
musical "Ballade" - attracting those artists of high violinistic & musically aware accomplishment ~

To my knowledge, Jascha Heifetz did not include Ysaye's Solo Sonatas for the Violin in his vast violin recital repertoire and if at some point he did, it appears there are no recordings of Jascha Heifetz's live playing of any of the Six Ysaye Solo Sonatas to date ~ The 'other' Grand Violin Mentor I also studied with privately, for over 3 & 1/2 years, Nathan Milstein, spoke often glowingly of Ysaye, whom the young Nathan Milstein had met through his determined efforts, after he (NM) had fled Russia, following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 ... Mr. Milstein sat in on Viola w/Ysaye's String Quartet, which included an Ysaye pupil playing Second Violin, who was somewhat 'challenged' technically yet fervent in spirit, who upon Ysaye's passing, in grief, established The Queen Elisabeth of Belgium International Violin Competition as a Memorial to her Teacher, Ysaye ~ I do know from my own father- teacher, a pupil of Ysaye's 'Apostle' pupil, Eduoard Dethier, that Eugen Ysaye was obviously a tremendously gifted 'teacher', handing down his many violinistic - musical ideas to Dethier, who passed Ysaye's 'Legacy' of violin playing with beautiful Franco - Belgium sound & artistic regality, to my Juilliard Violinist father, Ralph Matesky, who always stressed spirituality amid the phrasing in J. S. Bach's Unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas for Violin when teaching his vast array of Violin & Viola pupil's including yours truly, his daughter ~ (FYI, my father became the ASTA National President, serving in this position from 1970 - 1972, & prior as President-Elect in 1968 to 1970, & assuming the Presidency of our ASTA (America String Teachers Association) led ASTA to assist in the formation of ESTA,(European String Teachers Association) & JASTA (Japanese String Teachers Association), & worked closely with both to further develop their string teaching population & string teaching efforts to genuinely higher levels of professionalism with an accent on individual caring of each individual pupil in Europe & Japan ~ )

A comment posted here stated a teacher should know if a pupil is ready or capable of studying and absorbing the Unaccompanied Sonatas & Partitas of Bach & I'm making an attempt to paraphrase the said comment with the idea mentioned. In many more instances than less, this Maxim holds true, yet there do exist among tens of thousands of Violin Teachers/Instructors, some who haven't ever traversed the Bach Solo Violin Sonatas or Partitas themselves, who assign trusting pupil's a movement or even an entire Bach Unaccompanied Sonata who are very unfamiliar with healthy ideas of the 'How's' of bowing & individual fingering needs based on hand formation/s of each given pupil, which is, long term dangerous to pupil's not receiving truly informed guidance on how to roll a three or (much more difficult) 4 stringed chord or cluster of chords which frequently appear within all of J. S. Bach's unaccompanied works for Solo Violin, transcribed Solo Viola, & specifically composed by Bach Violoncello Unaccompanied Sonatas ...

I would not dare to assign - not teach any Bach Unaccompanied Sonatas & Partitas for Violin without ever having studied them early on with my father, and later on w/the Master Violinist, Milstein, who through his own unique bowing's (some of which were inspired by Guitarists including his friend, Andres Segovia) including 'Cantilena' guitar-like bowing to baroque Bach chording's made chording easier & stylistically authentic ~ This is Not an instance of what 'violin god' one subscribes to, but rather drawing upon the very fortuitous experience offered by the acknowledged Master of the Bow in Bach with a Guitar instinct to absorb other bowing techniques to create an easier path to attract audiences to Bach's 'holy' Music ~

To sum up a Part I answer to Stephen Symchych's important question I can say from my perspective, that between Mister's Heifetz and Milstein, it was Nathan Milstein, who spoke outwardly of Ysaye as an astonishing concert performing artist and interesting musician of the violin who composed the Six Solo Sonatas for Violin & became a close friend of Nathan Milstein ~ To be clear: I'm sure Mr. Heifetz admired Ysaye, as Ysaye had been honoured as a premier Violinist throughout Russia, when very young Jascha Heifetz, was studying violin at his father, Ruvin Heifetz's, knee until being taught by Leopold Auer from age 8 or 9, then going on to an indescribable concert performing - recording 70 year global career! (An educated guess would be Ruvin Heifetz taking his genius son, JH, to hear Ysaye in St Petersburg, when a very young boy who most probably absorbed some of the beauty of sound which was Ysaye ~ )

Thank You's to Stephen Symchych for your very important question!

Musically yours from Chicago ~

Elisabeth Matesky

*Sunday, October 13, 2019

(just following the passing of great friend, Harry, Saturday nite, 10/12/19, 'In Memoriam' ... )

October 14, 2019, 3:42 PM · I have written in my own fingerings and bowings for most of my returned tutelage (and sometimes I use what my teacher suggests, and other times I go my own way unless my teacher convinces me otherwise).

That said, I do have both the Urtext and RBP's editions - and I work from the Urtext, and consult RBP (or another relevant reference) IF I cannot seem to get a section worked out on my own.

I like this kind of challenge quite a bit! It sometimes seems like wasted time and effort, but I think it's helping me to form my own sound... I could be wrong about that, and if I am that's ok!

Then again, I do make unmusical fingerings at least once per piece so there's that to remedy. At least it is not all the time, as is the case with some of Scott's student experience!

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha YVN Model 3
Yamaha YVN Model 3

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases


Violin Pedagogy Symposium
Violin Pedagogy Symposium

Masterclass Al-Andalus
Masterclass Al-Andalus

Aria International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine