Bach Partita II, Corrente

August 19, 2017, 5:44 PM · Allemanda, I understand wholeheartedly--it's what got me to love Bach in the first place. Sarabanda and Giga, I understand--they're both pretty straightforward to me. Adagio Prelude from First Sonata, I get--in fact, it's probably my favourite Bach work so far.

But Corrente--I don't know what it is about it. I just can't seem to understand how to go about it. I've checked out Hilary, Milstein, Szeryng, and Midori (and quite recently Chung) and I think it's a fantastic piece. I sat down with a pencil and the score with the recordings playing trying to mark up the score to get a feel of the phrases and how each player went about bringing out the important stuff (duration? variance in tempo? pauses? base tempo? bow changes? ornaments?) but when I go to work, I feel like a small child in a forest full of penguins.

Corrente was the piece my teacher suggested I laid off and we went to work on Adagio from Sonata I, but now that I need two mvts of Bach (neither she nor I think it's prudent to attempt to learn the Fuga in three-four months) I am sort of forced to go back to it. Did anyone have difficulty in playing the Corrente? Have you succeeded?

Replies (13)

August 19, 2017, 6:14 PM · I was successful, but I don't know how to help you.
August 19, 2017, 6:45 PM · Here's some food for thought:

As I'm sure you know, the courante is a dance. The above linked article contains links to videos demonstrating the dance. Why not try to learn it and see if that helps?

August 19, 2017, 7:31 PM · Is it that you need two contrasting movements? Either Sarabande or Giga would work when paired with the Allemande.

I still remember the thrill I felt when I realized that the Sarabande was more or less the Chaconne in miniature.

August 20, 2017, 3:54 AM · "I was successful, but I don't know how to help you."

Ella, I wish many teachers could admit as much!

August 20, 2017, 4:58 AM · Can't help you I'm kind of in the same boat. I played all the other movements but this one is still odd to me.

Oh and Mary Ellen thanks for putting it that way. I could always hear the Chaconne in the other movements. The sarabande is really pretty but i play it very meanly. Forte in some parts. Much rubato don't try dancing to it

August 20, 2017, 6:06 AM · Dear Ms Ella Mr Adrian and Ahmed,

Haha I understand. Thanks for your responses. I don't think my teacher knew what to do with me on the piece anymore either; apparently she had another student just like me and had him move onto the first Sonata as well.

Mr Benjamin,

That was my first thought last night and I went to check out the rhythm and the dance and it sort of made a little more sense, although not enough for me to grasp a clear roadmap. I will continue to work on pairing it with a Dance, however, because this has been the best I've gotten so far.

Ms Mary-Ellen,

I will suggest the other movements to my teacher, but seeing as I already have three other new pieces to get ready, I don't really know how I feel about adding on another--but I guess that really is a discussion to be had between my teacher and me. Thank you for the suggestion!

August 20, 2017, 7:45 AM · Thing is, yes it's a dance and yes it's easy to danse to it but there are no liberties to be taken with the tempo. I felt like i had to play it like Milstein (ARTICULATION MANIAC) not like a violin piece.

And be careful the sarabande isn't easy ;)

The adagio is beautiful.

I recommend the George Enescu edits and fingerings available on imslp.

The provide an image and an explanation for each movement of each Sonata and partita.

And may i ask how much teaching did you receive before being able to play the adagio? *

Took me 3 years because of bow control lol

August 20, 2017, 10:36 AM · Dear Mr Ahmed,

Just a few months until I got it Recital-ready and memorised (: . There are obviously things I need to work on a bit more as there always will be, but the movement came rather naturally to me.

I particularly like Midori's Corrente--it's the one that speaks the most to me, but my teacher advises against playing so romantically (rather, un-baroqueishly) at auditions just to be safe since Bach interpretation is so controversial.

August 20, 2017, 5:15 PM · A way I may try to work through phrasing difficulties is by purposefully changing the bowing to in your mind connect different notes together.
Maybe to help get a different feel for the piece try sluring 2 sets of triplets together in the measures of unending triplets. I know in the first half before the repeat, you see 8 measures of only triplets which can make phrasing hard. Try doing a bunch of different bowings to see if you can understand them better, maybe try it without slurs entirely and then do each measure with one bow.
As well as some bow control practice you get to learn the piece in an entirely different way.
Edited: August 21, 2017, 12:33 PM · Something to remember about bowings is that what works for Szeryng or Milstein won't necessarily work for you. Those guys can divide nine notes up into 1-8, 1-8 and make it sound good, in either direction! My teacher took my Herrmann edition and completely re-bowed it for this movement (as he does quite often with Bach). Also practicing under tempo will help your intonation and a lot of other technical problems but it won't give you the overall feel of the piece.

I think what is frustrating about the Corrente is that when you look at the whole Partita it's the movement that looks the easiest until you try it. Then you find out it's got a lot of musical content that's not all that easy to bring off on the violin. It's between the Allemande and the Sarabande. There should be contrast. Let it be more rough, a "country" dance.

August 23, 2017, 8:47 PM · The 'watching the dance' suggestion is a good one - it worked for Arnold Steinhardt. He was having a similar problem with execution. Until one of his older teachers, really too old to play them well, danced them for him! (OK, I might be misremembering this, but regardless, it's a great story!)
Edited: August 24, 2017, 4:54 AM · Along with the Giga, the Corrente seemed to me the most "dance-like" section of the second partita, you know according to our contemporary standards etc. (yet I am no serious dancer)

Anyway, I find Maxim Vengerov's interpretation pretty much to the point, imho.

Good luck

August 24, 2017, 8:51 AM · Thank you everyone for your wonderful suggestions! (: I'll keep you all updated!!

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