Bach 3rd sonata, Fugue in C major - detail
Hi to all.
I am gnawing away at the Fugue from 3rd sonata and I came to (at least) one almost unplayable bar. I am sure I am not the first violinist to be bewildered by this and surely I have heard masters pull it off...
Does anyone have any notion on how to approach bar 158 and it's first chord - A(G) A(D) C(A) C(E).
First fingering that comes to mind is just 1/4 through a broken chord (a shift between both double stops)
Second fingering is awkward as hell: A(1) A(3) C(2) C(4) and is extremely hard to pull even with flexible hands.
Yes, a famously tricky spot if you don't have extremely flexible hands!
There aren’t many options here for fingerings in this awkward spot. You could do James’ way or 1324, which is what I chose, because I felt it was easier to get to the top C (which is the melody note) quicker.
Sneak in the bottom 2 notes earlier than usual so you don't have to rush on the top 2.
That spot, and that piece, are beyond my abilities, but, if you roll the chord instead of breaking it 2-2, then you delay the top C until after you leave the D string, you have a little time to set the top C, and you can also release the bottom A early. The baroque era fingerboard and string length was a little shorter. ... Looking at that again; If you precede that chord with a 3rd finger G#, a 1-3 octave A is not difficult, then give yourself a little time to move the 1st finger to the A string for a 1-4 octave C
It is true that the baroque era fingerboard was shorter. But people were also shorter and presumably their hands were smaller.
I always get yelled at when I suggest this, but it's the best solution--use your thumb. I think Bach intended this, since the problem turns up a bunch of times in the S&Ps, and I just don't buy the assumption that he could write so brilliantly for the violin and then... here's this thing that can't be played. Whenever you find a weird chord like this in Bach, and you can't play it using conventional fingering, notice if the lowest pitch is an A on the G string... Because throughout these pieces, I think that Bach clearly intended for you to use your thumb on the G string. So, I play this--Thumb on the G string for the low A, 3rd finger on the A on the D string, 1st finger on the C on the A string, and 4th finger on the C on the E string. Seriously, it works, once you get used to the odd thumb thing. Full disclosure (I guess)--I do have big hands. And yeah, this was a known performance practice in the baroque... by lutenists. Bach was a pioneer in innovative ways of using the thumb in keyboard music, too, BTW.
I have to try this thumb thing.
Now, to be clear, I mean reaching around on the left side with the thumb. As with the mighty Chaconne--there's an A(on the G), A(on the D), C(on the A), F(on the E) quadruple-stop towards the end of the first arpeggio section. How do you play that? I've seen people bounce their first finger (because it is an arpeggio after all) between the G and E strings, but they lose the resonance of that low A. Thumb on the G string A, 4th finger on the next A, 2nd finger on the C, and 1st finger on the F. There are other spots, too, making me think that in using these chords that are unplayable otherwise, he was making a subtle case for the use of the thumb in this way.
I give Paul a thumbs-up here. Doubters, all we ask is that you just *try* it with an open mind and *then* get back to us what you think.
Well, sacrilegious or not, my violin teacher talked about this 45 years ago. He also believed that using the thumb in this way was one of Paganini's tricks.
continued, - I have heard of that thumb trick. Bach had big hands. It is part of standard guitar technique, and they have frets to preserve intonation. But,- I have not seen it in any of my collection of violin technical books, so it doesn't look like it is part of any performance tradition. Does anyone have a reference from the literature?
Why must all 4 note chords be broken 2+2? How about 3+1 in that instance? The audience's ear will go to the top C... play the lower 3 notes in unison (1 4 2 fingering) and hit the C as its own note (with sizzle and electricity).
'Why must all 4 note chords be broken 2+2? How about 3+1 in that instance? The audience's ear will go to the top C... play the lower 3 notes in unison (1 4 2 fingering) and hit the C as its own note (with sizzle and electricity).
I'll agree with Tony. I don't want these chords to sound forced or crushed. We would be better off trying to copy the lute and guitar transcriptions of the Bach Violin and Cello solos, rather than try to sound like an organ. An interesting edition of the S.& P. set is the reprint of the Simrock 1st edition, edited by Sol Babitz. It has a discussion about rolling, arpegiating the chords.
it's a nasty chord - what I do is two fingered octaves, 1324 but bringing the elbow all the way under and the wrist in so I'm playing almost on the far sides of my fingers.
Just roll (or arpegiate) the chord 1-4-2-4 or 1-4-24. That is appropriate baroque performance practice and works just as well on a modern violin as a period instrument.
I think 1-4-2-4 is ok but not 1-4-24, because it is physically impossible for the 4th finger to move from the D string to the A string and play both top notes at the same time without creating a huge break in the chord. It would need to be 1-3-24, or 1-4-'2-24-4'.
What I meant by the 1-4-24 is better expressed 1-4-2-24. In other words by the time you have played 2 your 1 and 4 should have lifted then you add 4 to the 2. This will give you a very fast triplet (before the beat) followed by the double stop 24.
thanks Bruce as always for the authoritative answer!
Why not 3+1?
Hi Scott, the reason to use the thumb in places like this is not to employ a 'cheat', but because it is the most natural and musical approach. Please do give this technique a fair try before dismissing it!
And the other reason would be that there is good evidence for thumb use. First, Bach had large hands (they say that he had a huge span on the keyboard--beyond a tenth I think), and from my years of harpsichord training, it is common knowledge in that field that he expanded the use of the thumb in keyboard music. And then the other thing you have to consider is that Bach clearly knew how to write exquisitely for the violin. He is not sloppy. Ever. It makes no sense at all that he would write this fabulous music, perfectly suited for the instrument, and then there would be a few unplayable quadruple stops that start on a low A. Finally, we know that lutenists were doing the same thing.
"Playing a 3-note chord requires more forcefulness..."
'It makes no sense at all that he would write this fabulous music, perfectly suited for the instrument, and then there would be a few unplayable quadruple stops that start on a low A.'
The Szeryng edition has 1-3-1-4. I found that a little easier than 1-3-2-4. Staying in first position.
I like Szeryng's fingering as well, which you can think of as 2nd position with an extended 1 to reach down for the low A. That makes it easier for those with shorter pinkies.
Cool. I am encouraged that my suggestion is echoed by Jeewon, Raymond, and,... Szeryng.
James, I'm glad to see that you are in favor of using the thumb in some circumstances. You mentioned one chord in the Ciaccona; I am pretty sure that there are a good few more "impossible" chords in the S&P's which do "require" the thumb-- I will try to track these down. What about m54 of the C major Fuga? Anyway, in many cases using the thumb can avoid some nasty contortions.
Ah, just read Joel's post and I agree with him re. bowing too. You want to preserve the tenor line as possible, F#G#A, so you wouldn't want to break it 3+1. I'd go for rolled, emphasizing A on D-string, or 1+3.
'What about m54 of the C major Fuga?' I stand corrected, nice find!
How about the ADBF# in m.201 of the Chaconne? It sure makes the voice-leading clearer than any other option.
You mean ADBF# with the thumb on A? It is much better to use 1022. You'd be surprised how many professional violinists have used and still use the unresonant and suboptimal 1011... a quick youtube search shows Perlman, Gitlis and (god forbid) Heifetz using 1011. Vengerov and Hilary Hahn use 1022, granted they are 'newer school' and more up to date with this kind of technology.