Interpretation of the first movement of the Bach Partita in D minor

June 26, 2020, 5:37 PM · Recently I have been working on the first movement of the Bach partita and am not sure how I should interoperate it. Currently, I approach it with a more gentle delicate approach using no vibrato and smooth phrasing. However, all the recording seem to play it a little more bluntly and louder. As it is baroque is this acceptable?

Replies (23)

June 26, 2020, 6:18 PM · I would favor a more full-throated approach.
June 26, 2020, 7:01 PM · Which voice?
June 26, 2020, 7:10 PM · You can do whatever you want up to a point. No dynamics or ideal interpretation would have ever been standardized in the period. Of course playing it like Tchaikovsky is inappropriate. Understanding it structurally and harmonically will inform your phrasing. but, things like vibrato and dynamics and color are up to interpretation.
Edited: June 26, 2020, 7:13 PM · I ultimately based my take on this (Allemande) on Chapter 18 (pg.98) of Joseph Szigeti's book "Szigeti on the Violin." It is dated, sure, it is not Baroque but it is one way I like it.

The way I look at it, if you want to play Bach a certain way, go for it. And if you want to play it a different way too - that's OK as well. I recall Lara St. John playing the Chaconne at our local Borders book store in 1996 (promoting her new CD) and it was not like I had heard it before - but it "opened my eyes" and ears - and it helped motivate my 7 year old student who came with me (my older granddaughter) to continue her lessons with me for the next 9 years.

June 26, 2020, 8:07 PM · If played with a modern setup etc, I would suppose some “deviations” are acceptable. I really like listening to new approaches, like Andrew said, they can be really motivating. On the other hand If played with a baroque violin, lower tuning, proper strings for the baroque era, that would be something different...just my thoughts....
June 26, 2020, 8:17 PM · Gut strings tuned to A=415hz, baroque bow and hold with baroque fingerboard, don’t forget the powdered wigs.
June 27, 2020, 5:11 AM · I phrase and play the Allemande as if it is a conversation between a man and a woman.
June 27, 2020, 8:34 AM · I find social distancing during this pandemic gives me an opportunity to practice more "freely" than ever before. Previously, for the past 60 years, I have been playing in one or more ensembles every week, I had to practice rhythmically with consistent tempos. Being free of that responsibility, I can now "open up" and experiment with rhythmic variations and find new ways to play more expressively - even BACH!
June 27, 2020, 10:48 AM · Ben, although I suspect baroque setup isn't one of the options on the table right now, anyone who finds potential value in that direction should not let childishly snide comments about it slow them down. :-)
June 27, 2020, 4:04 PM · Personally I prefer a more intimate, reflective approach to the Allemande. To my mind the opening note is a question, and there is a lot of doubt and uncertainty in the answer.
June 27, 2020, 4:42 PM · My favorite interpretation
June 27, 2020, 6:59 PM · Maestro Zander's masterclass is worth watching:

June 28, 2020, 6:57 AM · I find the Perlman performance referred to by David Duarte really sloppy!
June 28, 2020, 7:40 AM · I recommend Bach's violin interpretations by MIRIAM FRIED.
Edited: June 28, 2020, 9:15 AM · " I recall Lara St. John playing the Chaconne at our local Borders book store in 1996 (promoting her new CD) and it was not like I had heard it before"

Thanks for mentioning her Andrew. She recorded the entire set in 2007, and although it's hard if not impossible to displace Julia Fischer's recording in my collection, I find the parts of the d minor Partia I've heard to be evocative.

She also recorded some of Bach's accompanied sonatas, with Marie-Pierre Langlamet, on harp, which makes for an interesting listening experience of some wonderful music that isn't often heard.

June 28, 2020, 11:05 AM · I like Szeryng and Grumiaux for older players. Julia Fischer has a great one for contemporary players. I find Hilary Hahn's interpretation and a lot of younger violinists to be ponderous and to not hold together structurally.

I actually started wanting to play more in the style of Hahn - Quiet, without a strong pulse, etc. My teacher asked me to play with more rhythmic structure, and more "masculine", so to speak, and, though skeptical, the more I played that way, the more I came around to it.

I just checked out the Miriam Fried, and I quite like it. It's got a little bit of space in the phrasing, but without ever losing the thread, like she has a lot of confidence in her approach. If you ever get a chance, she runs a fantastic master class!

Edited: June 28, 2020, 11:28 AM · @jean What do you mean with sloppy? In what aspect?
He has a more "studio perfect" disc version.
June 28, 2020, 1:31 PM · sloppy as in "sloppy" :-)
Edited: June 29, 2020, 10:48 AM · Sloppy in what? Tempo? Bow control? Intonation?
Anyway, the point here is the interpretation.
Edited: June 30, 2020, 2:39 PM · I find that it is impossible to completely separate equipment, style, and technique. Trying to copy the sound of the authentic-practice recordings with the standard modern violin will be frustrating. There is more inertia with the modern violin and strings, which requires a more forceful approach to playing. If you have an extra, quality violin, a compromise would be to use all gut strings, including the E, either plain or wrapped. Contrary to the advertisements of some string manufacturers, gut strings are not slow in response, but are more flexible, faster, need less force to start them sounding.
July 1, 2020, 9:28 AM · I'm glad you aked this - I find the Allemande EXTREMELY difficult to interpret. Amazingly, it's a set piece for ABRSM exams.
Frankly, I think anything in the D-minor partita presents more difficulty than anything in the E-major.
Edited: July 3, 2020, 8:10 AM · I love playing the Allemande. I've incorporated Allemande and Presto (G minor) as part of my warm-up routine when I practice. When I was learning S&P, my favorite violinists that I listened to were Rachel Podger and Uto Ughi. I now play my own interpretation of S&P (which is somewhat similar to both Rachel and Uto). I never tire of playing S&P.

IMHO, more than the interpretation itself, it is important to make sure you play S&P in tune (that's why knowing your scales is very important :-) ).

July 1, 2020, 1:35 PM · All depends on the player frankly, although my experience with the Allemande was not unlike an intimate conversation between two people. The intricacy of Bach (at the risk of sounding like a fangirl :) ) lies in the voice-like inflections while playing, which is generally what appeals to me most in his music.

As like in a conversation that ebbs and flows, I most enjoyed playing Allemande because the player has the ability to take the direction they prefer-sometimes in a more gentle, subtle comment and other times a more direct, emphasized phrase.

In a more technical sense, I would recommend first focusing on your accuracy of the notes and rhythm-Bach for that reason is quite difficult because while there is so much expressiveness, learning the rhythm in my opinion is an important initial step in learning the piece. Esp in his S&P's. Best of luck, and hope this helps!

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