Chaconne, arpeggios and the sixteenth notes

Edited: December 31, 2020, 5:42 PM · I need help. I'm not quite sure how to do the arpeggios in the Chaconne, or the 16th notes section in measures 229-244. I would like any help you can give me.

Replies (11)

Edited: December 31, 2020, 1:44 PM · If you listen to old recordings, you'll notice that pretty much everyone did it differently. The recently departed Ivry Gitlis went totally wild with it and pretty much ignored the rhythym on the page altogether. His version is my (and many others') favourite. My advice is, play around with it and perform it however the heck you want.

If you're really bent on following the score, then... it's all there on the page.

Edited: December 31, 2020, 6:58 PM · The arpeggio thing is definitely not "all there on the page," which is why there are so many different approaches. One approach is to treat the word "arpeggio" to mean "simile," which is to say, you keep playing those chords broken into 1/32nd notes as the first two sets are written. I would think that you should at least be able to do that before you play it like "Orange Blossom Special." My approach is to take Bach at his word and interpret "arpeggio" to mean something different than the 1/32nds (since Bach never wrote a single thing that wasn't essential), and I play the arpeggio passages in 1/32nd triplets, which conveniently allows you play 3- and 4-note chords in the same texture. I think it is clear from these sections that Bach did not intend for the texture to change when there are triple- and quadruple-stops adjacent to each other, as around mm 102-106. I like the accelerando effect in the beginning, going into the triplets, too. I do the second arpeggio section this way from the beginning, because Bach wrote it that way, and he obviously intended the second part to be an echo of the first.

Cotton's right, though. You're playing it. Do what you want.

As for that 1/16th note texture on the last page, it actually IS all on the page. Even the bowing. But it does look a little weird. What I love about Bach's writing is that he conveys a LOT of information with the minimum notation. Here he has you crossbowing like a fiddler, playing melody on the D and G strings while droning the open A string on every other note. I remember when I first started to play the end of that section when you go up high on the low strings--it was truly a godawful racket. Watch a video of someone doing it; the trick is to work on it super-slow, and then forget all that, and play as though it was easy. haha.

January 1, 2021, 11:42 AM · Thank you both, Cotton and Paul. And yes, it is a godawful racket playing high on the D and G. I'll go and look at someone playing that part, then play it like it's easy. Because it 'totally' is. ha
January 1, 2021, 5:09 PM ·
January 1, 2021, 5:33 PM · Paul wrote:
" My approach is to take Bach at his word and interpret "arpeggio" to mean something different than the 1/32nds (since Bach never wrote a single thing that wasn't essential)"

I would respectfully disagree with Paul on this; it seems obvious to me that Bach was laying out a pattern with the 1/32nds and then indicated "arpeggio" to clarify that the pattern was meant to continue, and not to play ordinary bass-to-treble-bowed chords (making the notation "arpeggio" essential). Bach was employing a kind of shorthand to ease the writing out of the passage. (I don't recall ever seeing the notation "simile" in music of this era).

Paul wrote: " I think it is clear from these sections that Bach did not intend for the texture to change when there are triple- and quadruple-stops adjacent to each other, as around mm 102-106. "

Agreed, but you can continue the prescribed pattern of "straight" 32nds, rather than triplets, in the 4 note chords by beginning each set of 4 32nds with a double stop consisting of the 2 middle notes of the chord.

Edited: January 2, 2021, 9:46 PM · As to repeating patterns: That pattern that Bach gives for measure 89 (the open D as the bass of the chord and the two upper notes on G and A) can only last for the first three measures of that arpeggio section. And even so you have to cheat a little and play the second chord of the second of those measures on G and D in 5th position, extending the fourth finger to play the g. After those three measures the pattern changes: The bass note is now the open G. If you keep bowing as before (maintain the technical pattern) the first 32nd of every chord will now be the bass note and the middle note will be the one that gets repeated (probably undesirably).

Another consideration is this: This first arpeggio section is very long and can be quite monotonous in some interpretations. The Chaconne consists of course of 64 snippets of 4 measures each, everyone of those beginning with a d-minor or D-major chord. If you look at the section in question you'll see that it consists of 8 such snippets* (1/8 of the whole Chaconne!) and you will notice that they all are different from each other, have their own character. It would seem to make sense to try and find a pattern for each of those snippets rather than to "homogenize" the whole section and play a single pattern for such a long time (when almost everywhere else in the Chaconne the pattern changes from snippet to snippet). At any rate something must happen musically every time a new snippet begins.

*Assuming that Bach intended the arpeggio marking for the whole section which is what everybody seems to assume but the score as written is not clear about that.

Edit: I just listened to Gitlis playing the piece: I have to agree: he is magnificent. Though, to be clear: The almost complete disregard for rhythm he displays at times (like right in the first section the constantly varying execution of dotted notes anywhere between triple dotted and one-third dotted) is a clear case of Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi.

January 2, 2021, 6:51 PM · The Galamian edition (which my teacher has me using for this piece) has (in the non-manuscript main part) a sort of working out of most of the arpeggio parts in a way that reflects the performing tradition, at least of his time. I have been surprised at the number of different ways of arpeggiating indicated there (and a few more that my teacher has had me add as well, some of which I recognized from recordings as soon as he demonstrated). The general idea inasmuch as I understand it appears to be that when the kind of movements the chords are making underneath changes character, the method of arpeggiation often also changes, for contrast. Of course this becomes quite important when so much of the piece is arpeggiated.

You can probably find videos of a lot of famous players playing, to see exactly how they make the sounds they make. Some of my many favorite players for this piece are Szeryng, Milstein, and Heifetz.

The major species of ways to do these appear to be plain swept arpeggios (one down bow to cross G->E and one up bow E->G), a variant with particular emphasis for the bass notes (even a bit out of rhythm), one with emphasis for the bass and treble notes, one where you return to a particular note smack in the middle of a chord after sweeping across the instrument because that is really where the melody is (this seems to come up particularly in the first few lines), one where you play sixteen notes (so G->e->g-e->g)_in a downbow (driving string changes mostly from the wrist) and then the same on an upbow, and a funny backwards one (starts and ends on the high string) that starts in Galamian's edition in the middle of measure 113.

January 3, 2021, 10:35 PM · Szeryng provides directions on how to realize them in his edition. Check the bottom of that page for the different patterns.
Edited: January 17, 2021, 3:20 PM · Delayed Reply, 1/17/21, from E. Matesky, rare Carrier of Heifetz-Milstein Legacy of Violin Playing & Teaching (#9)

Dear Fabian Juarez ~

Having just seen this Question & 'Cry' for Assistance re the Chaconne of Bach, by yourself, dear Fabian J., I wish to thank you for reaching out in goodwilled faith for a solution or several solutions to specifically numbered measures you have listed above ~

Not given to violin teaching on a Discussion, I would strongly encourage you to listen very intently to both my Mentor's, Mister's Heifetz and most carefully to JH's so admired Unaccompanied Bach Sonatas & Partitas Exponent & Auer class-mate, Nathan Milstein! Please remember, Nathan Milstein thrice recorded Bach's Epic Solo Violin Six - the last of which won
the Grammy not long before NM's 1992 passing ...

As NM's self-proclaimed 'Guinea Pig protege of Heifetz I can experiment w/ violinistically!', Mr. Milstein shared most of his uncanny bowing secrets
& worldly spiritual insight's into All Six and during our "Revisit" to the Bach Six, focused greatly on the Chaconne from the d minor Partita #2 ~ Re the arpeggios throughout the Chaconne, I do strongly recommend you begin listening many many times to Milstein's 'handling' of the varied arpeggiated passages which are based upon the underneath Bass tonal note which does dictate highlighted 'coloured' intonation via the bottom note nano second vibrato plus All you will hear and come to know very well ~ The chording is an entirely different matter which incorporates all double, triple & quadruple stop/s bowing techniques rarely known of nor taught by most in America or elsewhere. The Bow is critical in Bach and I will offer just 1 clue that quite often Mr. Milstein would 'roll' the 3 & 4 stringed Chords if musically in sync with the sentiment of the chord or chords. Example; If chording in a Finale Chord or cluster of chords at a Grand Ending one usually plays All Four Strings simultaneously and from the Frog but this technique must be shown
How to facilitate person to person and requires sincere understanding of the possibilities of Bow and Bowing trajectory which as stated above, I don't print-teach online. Suffice to say, it took a full year & a half of private tough studies twice weekly w/Nathan Milstein at his home in London, {a'tutorial' = no less than 3 & 1/2 hrs minimum} re my Franco-Belgium bowing to absorb the Milstein Bowing Techniques which when finally near 'transplanted' into my bowing arm, liberated my abilities to actually present on the violin so much of the musical ideas in my inner musical sound track & these private tutorial's continued for 2 more solid years which elevated one's playing & spiritual offering's of Bach with greater heightened awareness of Musicality beyond violin virtuosity so often heard or aspired to when younger & less
able to delete then artist 'ego'-playing to finally serving Bach's Master, God . . .

A marvellous example {although not Chaconne}, is The Last Violin Recital offered by Nathan Milstein w/his French Pianist, Georges Pludemacher, in LvB's Piano/Violin Sonata No. 9, 'Kreutzer' which is beyond musically holy, then followed by NM at aged 83/84 Encoring w/the Fourth Movement of the Third Bach C Major Sonata, 'Allegro assai' with Bowing bravura you shall Never again witness, and Live, in Stockholm!! It's on YouTube, Fabian, and waiting just for you!!! Please do this for yourself and your future!!!

Wishing you the absolute Best of The Best, keep in touch once you hear/see NM!!

~ Yours musically from Chicago ~

..... Elisabeth Matesky .....


~ Sunday, January 17, 2021 / Chicago, USA ~

Edited: January 17, 2021, 3:18 PM · @Francis Browne and @Jason Broander ~ (#10)

As from ~ Carrier of the Heifetz-Milstein Legacy of Violin Playing/Teaching

A Word: unknown Truth re a few Henryk Szeryng 'different patterns' in Edition of Bach Six

Dear Ms. Browne and Mr. Broander ~

I could not help noticing your questions {Ms Browne} re your teacher having the Bach Six Solo Violin Sonatas/Partitas Edition by Galamian,
and wondering's re bowing's/fingerings, et al in your Edition, & with Mr. Broander's helpful Reply re Henryk Szeryng's Edition of All Six Bach Violin Sonatas & Partitas, w/ his wording, 'different patterns', that I feel compelled to make slight mention of my longtime friend/colleague {both of us under same London Concert Artist Management, from the mid-1960's to later '70's}, Henryk Szeryng's Edition, and will First Time mention that following a recording of a Double Concerto w/Henryk Szeryng & myself, (for a TV Film on my life as a young concert artist) my dear friend, Ambassador Szeryng, went 'round 'to see and play to' {my mentor}, Nathan Milstein, as some of my bowing seemed of interest to him & in Bach & that Early Period ~ I know this as NM told me, his by-then nearly 3 year private former Jascha Heifetz protege, with whom an ongoing violinistic Master Mentor to Protege pupil relationship developed, and w/many of Mr. Milstein's shared bowing secrets which were by then apparent in my own playing! Never before have I mentioned this but it may be intriguing to very intensely examine some of Szeryng's markings, i.e., bowing's especially, in the Chaconne and C Major Sonata of J.S. Bach!! There might be a bit of NM bowing hints in the Henryk Szeryng Edition of The Unaccompanied Sonatas & Partitas of Johann Sebastian Bach!? Please realise, Henryk Szeryng, came from an intense Carl Flesch trained Bowing Approach most of his life, yet during our rehearsals together in Paris at his Penthouse flat, prior to our playing together & adorned w/truly intriguing/interesting comments by Henryk Szeryng re the various sections of a Duo we were recording, he may have noticed a change in my bowing from earlier when we first met in LA when I was studying w/Jascha Heifetz & subsequently filmed in a half hour lesson with Mr. Heifetz in the JH Violin Master Classes - Khachaturian, JH-7, Elisabeth Matesky (Russian version, Library of Master Performers) Film on YouTube!

Of course, Henryk Szeryng, was a Grand Concert Artist and travelled The Globe throughout his Sol Hurok from NYC managed concert career with enormous gratitude to Arthur Rubinstein, who upon meeting & impromptu playing a Brahms Violin/Piano Sonata together as H.S. spoke to A.R. in their native tongue of Polish, in Mexico City in 1958, & Rubinstein, so very impressed, took Henryk Szeryng to NYC, to meet Sol Hurok, who hearing him, immediately signed young poor Henryk Szeryng, to his Violin Artist Roster, and as is said, "The Rest is History!", please do not for a moment think my mention of the above takes away a Drop from Szeryng's acclaim as an renowned Artist!!

Hoping the H.S. Edition is greatly helpful, if unsure, suggest going to The International Edition which includes the Urtext of original Johann Sebastian Bach manuscripts as penned by The Master, himself ~

With best musical greetings to you both, I remain

~ Yours musically from America ~

..... Elisabeth Matesky .....

Full Bio:

~ Sunday, January 17, 2021 ~

January 19, 2021, 6:50 AM · Ask Augustin 47 - Arpeggio passages in Bach

This explanation is very convincing although my interpretation is more simple.

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