Bach A Minor Fugue

Edited: October 17, 2020, 12:49 AM · Hello, everyone. I made a post about the Bach B Minor Sarabande a while back. I think I reworked it to a reasonable level. Of course, there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to Bach.

Some background on myself, I'm basically a college graduate who had to stop taking lessons mid-first year (about a 3.5 year gap)

I've been reworking scales, etudes (Kreutzer and some of the former part of Rode) The last solo Bach I began with my teacher was the A minor Fugue. We never finished it

Now, given a pandemic, unemployment, and limitless time, I really want to do justice to this piece.

Does anyone have any practice suggestions to facilitate this?

I understand the concept of a fugue and I've separated the voices in my mind, which I feel is half the battle. I think my fingerings are off or I do more work than I need to. I also think some of my down/up bows are off

(I bought a new book, so I don't have my old bowings and fingerings)

Any suggestions would be extremely welcome, as well as any suggestions for a re-entering (4 months now) violinist. I truly enjoy the cameraderie and knowledge on this site.

Thank you so much!

Aside: I studied math in college, while I'd hate to call Bach "mathematical", I feel I truly appreciated Bach way more after my studying math, more so than other composers.

Replies (5)

October 17, 2020, 8:41 AM · I don't have any advice on your piece because I'm not a good enough player, and I've never played that, and probably never will.

I do agree with you about Bach though. It's not mathematical. But there is a degree of logic that is satisfying.

My suggestion with regard to much baroque violin music like Corelli or Bach or Veracini is to look for longer lines in the music. With Bach there is always a longer line, he was uniquely good at nesting sequences.

October 17, 2020, 10:03 AM · Practice separating the voices, fingering both voices but only playing one. Make sure that you're clear in your head about when the voices sometimes switch -- i.e. the higher note doesn't always belong to a single voice.
October 17, 2020, 10:15 AM · You can practice Dont 1 for chordal playing in the right hand, if that's what was tripping you up with regards to the down/up bows, with an ear towards not crunching.
Edited: October 17, 2020, 9:14 PM · This is a hard one. Not unplayable, but a few nasty licks and the tendency to push me, anyway, into a lot of tension.

The bottom of the first page has two very hard measures right before the beginning of the first episode that Galamian fingers as though you had a perfectly-shaped hand. Experiment with different ways of doing that.

The other thing that I find helpful, and suited to how I hear the music, is not to make the start too loud or grand. It's 5 magnificent pages, but if you wind yourself up too tight, you'll never get through. Instead, treat it as a conversation that doesn't get especially loud for some time. Someone comes in after the Adagio with its mournful melismas and starts talking calmly. Then someone answers, etc. It's not the monolith from 2001.

[Pet theory to investigate sometime: are the Sonatas based on Easter Weekend? G-minor for Good Friday-- the opening sounds a bit like the military opening for Mahler 5. C Major for Easter day, as the Adagio starts floating toward heaven. In between, on Holy Saturday, the sobbing and middle-eastern oud playing of the A Minor Adagio. Don't worry if you disagree.]

Related to this is an idea that most others don't seem to have thought of or agreed with. Continue the same base tempo over from the Adagio, only alla breve. I think there is a reason he writes the two movements attacca-- the C Major and the G Minor can also work that way. Of course, the G minor has a double bar at the end of its Adagio, so Bach reminds you explicitly that the Fugue is supposed to be alla breve. That only makes logical sense if you are comparing that tempo with what came before.

So if you are subdividing quarters in the first movement, make the resulting 1/8 notes (quavers) into the 1/4 notes (crotchets) of the fugue. The effect is similar to how Handel Suites slide into their fugal bits after the French Overture opening. Different character, but a seamless transition that is done before you realize what has happened. One incidental advantage to that is, while you might have to reconsider the speed and expression of the Adagio, it means you cannot be tempted to take the Fugue too fast.

Good luck. Wonderful music. The third and fourth movements are much easier!

October 18, 2020, 12:39 PM · Stephen, thank you for that brilliant answer.

And thank you everyone else as well

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