Concert Review II
J.S. Bach: Violin Sonatas and Partitas
J.S Bach was born in Germany in the town of Eisenach on March 31, 1685 (Biography.com). Orphaned at the age of 10 Bach went to live with his older brother. His older brother being a church organist lead him further into the musical world and his Lutheran faith would later inspire some of his most famous works of Art music. Bach at an early age was known for his soprano voice which got him singing positions in the choir. As he got older his voice changed and he focused more on his violin work. He died in Leipzig, Germany in 1750 at the age of 65.
The following evaluation is for Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor which takes up the first 16 minutes and 53 seconds, Partita No. 1 in B minor from 16:54 to 47:05, and finally Sonata No. 2 in A minor from 47:10 to 1:04:25.
Sonatas are typically compositions for an instrumental soloist accompanied by piano or the same instrument. In the first piece we will hear the soloist accompanied by another violin as they play different parts to bring together a more robust listening experience. A partita was originally the name for a single instrumental piece of music but Bach used it for collections of musical pieces. In the case of the musical piece I will be evaluating a partita is played by a soloist and is a collection of several different movements that flow together.
The violin is known for its vibrato and such is used constantly from the beginning of Bach’s violin sonatas (00:40). The solo sound of the violin is so beautiful and focused. It’s really enjoyable to hear a soloist instead of full orchestras or symphonies. The violin has a high pitch and distinct timbre compared to that of a cello or bass (2:40). You can hear the violinist put more energy into his playing at 4:20 as the movement comes to stop. The high-pitched string sound with smooth long notes are contrasted with deep shorter strokes of the bow (4:20).
I really enjoy the pace of the next movement and the changes in dynamics (5:30). This movement exhibits shorter strokes of the bow and I would say more deeper pitches(6:00). At this point in the sonata you can hear two different violins playing together. Each plays a different part that works together to create an interesting sound. One was playing a constant quarter note while the other was playing a melody over top of it(7:15).
The music gets much faster at 14:30 and the volume goes from soft to loud. The melody makes you think of a busy street and haste. We must get to the place in which we must go and fast or else! The emotion of this part of the movement makes one almost anxious until you hear the final pull of his bow at 16:40 and all you hear is silence.
The violinist gives us rest in this next movement showing us around the place we have arrived (17:30). This portion of the ensemble gives me a sense of wandering and curiosity. The way the violin is being played it sounds like we are floating and bouncing around a room that we have never been in before. Perhaps we have met someone there and we are circling each other and giving pursuit of one another in a curious and flirtatious way. At 21:50 the music’s melody seems to just repeat and then close out at 22:30.
At 30:30 we can hear a flurry of violin notes being played. The violinist must be moving his hand very quickly to be performing these notes. At 32:02 the violinist does a diminuendo multiple times going from vigorous playing to almost nothing and coming back to the top. At 36:30 the feeling changes to almost sadness and melancholy. Longer notes are being played that often go form high to low pitches which convey a sort of sadness in connotation.
At 48 minutes the vibrato comes out once again and the melody is still soft and sad. Is there hope? I feel like this speaks to the person who is asking that question. One who isn’t on the other side of their pain and the wound is still open. The question of hope just hangs in the air waiting for someone to give answer to it. I’m having flashbacks to the Lord of the Rings in the scene where the hoards of orcs are swarming the castle and no hope is in sight. The darkness is surrounding the castle and evil is starting to prevail. I can hear this music playing as the fighting is happening in slow motion. The sound of the battle is drowned out by the violin and all that is heard is this sad melody as several good guys get run through with orc blades.
As the piece concludes, to me the song does get a bit lighter but not happy. Conflict is still palpable in the air. Maybe someone has died and you could see this being a happy yet sad farewell to a friend in a better place.
As I mentioned in the last concert review I enjoy soloist performances so this was quite an enjoyable listening experience for me. I have always found the violin to be a beautiful instrument when played right. I enjoy the versatility of the violin. One can play is soft or loud, fast or slow, high pitched or low pitched and all of the above have such unique qualities to them. Unlike wind instruments which can be stopped by a lack of oxygen, the only thing limiting a strings musician is how fast he can move his arm.
J.S. Bach is clearly a masterful composer and is worthy of remembrance. His compositions move us to places we don’t normally go with the typical pop song we would hear on the radio today. It just takes a bit more appreciation for music to listen and enjoy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkZvyA69wCo”Johann Sebastian Bach.” Biography.com, A;E Networks Television, 28 Apr. 2017, www.biography.com/people/johann-sebastian-bach-9194289.