Favorite Movement(s) of Solo Bach

November 19, 2022, 10:16 PM · Dear all,

As the headline suggests, this is a "just wondering" type of thread about which movement(s) of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas are dearest to you. If you're like me, choosing just a few of these pieces for favorites is challenging, mainly for fear of "leaving out" all the others.

My favorite movements are the Siciliana from Sonata No. 1 and the Fugue and Largo from Sonata No. 3. I deeply enjoy the Siciliana and Largo for their lullaby-ish themes, short, sweet phrases, and delicate, subtle accompaniment. I find the C major Fugue a thrill to hear, with its robust chords, "al riverso" inverted section, and epic scale as a work almost as long as the Chaconne.

Which movements from solo Bach are your favorites and why? Do you feel any special personal connection to your selections?

Replies (16)

November 20, 2022, 1:29 AM · The 'slow' movement of the A minor sonata. When it's really well played the entire universe seems to stand still and pause.
The A minor fugue - the only fugue I ever got close to a performable state.
The first 2 movements of the C major sonata. The slow introduction with its clashing seconds has a hypnotic quality. And I always wonder about the fugue - did Bach write it just to show that it is possible to write a 4-part fugue for a stringed instrument which is playable at least in theory. It always strikes me a some kind of miracle that great players can render it musically and intelligibly, and it still conveys a sense of being a huge challenge. Maybe the violinistic equivalent of the finale of the Hammerklavier sonata.
The G minor finale with its rhythmic ambiguities.
And the joyful, exuberant E major Praeludium - possibly my top choice if pressed for one.
November 20, 2022, 6:55 AM · not really a reply to the original question, but the E major prelude must have been something Bach liked himself a lot, because he used it for three or four sinfonias in his cantates.
November 20, 2022, 8:25 AM · I'm with Jean.
November 20, 2022, 8:46 AM · My favorite is the Andante from Sonata No. 2 in A Minor. It is not an easy one to play well. It was beautifully played by my grandson at his 104 year old great grandmother's mass of celebration of life.
November 20, 2022, 12:44 PM · I also played that for my grandmother's funeral.

It was the first Bach movement that I think I played really well, and I discovered it before studying the sonata. It was on a pirate LP of Szigeti's 1930s performance, and something about the whole thing just stuck with me.

November 20, 2022, 2:46 PM · I find the Gavotte en Rondeau to be particularly charming. I also really like the D minor Sarabande, and there's a really cool major seventh dissonance in the 4th measure that always blows my mind.

All the fugues are favorites of mine.

November 20, 2022, 4:18 PM · This is off topic,but I thought you might enjoy this story:
I was performing the D minor Partita and played a wrong note in the middle of the second section of the Allemande. I decided to make the same mistake on the repeat on the spur of the moment.

Anyway a violinist and conductor colleague of mine came up to me after the performance and said that he noticed a different note that he was not used to hearing in the Allemande and was this some new discovery in a new Urtext version? I answered, "No, I played a wrong note the first time through and just decided to make the same mistake on the repeat!"

November 20, 2022, 4:23 PM · Excellent way to cover!

I heard of a similar thing with Piatagorsky (I think), who had a complete memory lapse in a Bach Suite and had to improvise his way out. All the city's students were in the front rows with their scores, but afterwards he just grandly said that he was using a different edition.

November 21, 2022, 6:13 AM · I think the C-minor "Sarabande" in the fifth Violacello suite has the best ratio of musicality to difficulty!
November 21, 2022, 10:12 AM · I enjoy hearing the movements that I can play, which leaves out the fugues and Chaconne.
Edited: November 21, 2022, 10:15 AM · Sonata No. 2's Andante seems well-loved, and for many reasons! It's profoundly calming, comforting music that literally moves to the beat of your heart. It's probably my favorite after the Siciliana. Another much simpler, but no less beautiful, piece from the S&Ps is the Double of the B minor Sarabande. It has such flow and wistfulness when played well.

Edit: the B minor Sarabande itself isn't too bad either! ;)

Edited: November 23, 2022, 7:36 AM · My favorite is the Presto movement of the G minor Sonata. Its rhythmic and harmonic complexity is unlike anything I had heard before. Interestingly there is a risk of it sounding like an etude; it should be fast but not too fast in my opinion. I think the movement is almost as much of a challenge for the listener as the player.

November 25, 2022, 12:48 AM · P.-1 Sarabande Double: I have bowed it as an Irish Slip Jig (9/8), but I haven't had the courage to perform it that way. Sonata 1- Presto: the hemiola pattern, 6/16 measures alternating with 3/8 can be brought out with the bowing and emphasizing some notes more than others.
November 25, 2022, 9:37 PM · Mr. Quivey, I'm sure Bach would have enjoyed that! It could be the B-minor Gigue...
November 26, 2022, 9:49 AM · Partita II Allemande, pretty much all but especially Allemande Gigue and Chaconne; Sonata III Largo.
November 26, 2022, 3:09 PM · My favorite movement is whichever one I am playing now.


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