On Monday, we ventured into the monumental preludes and fugues of J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. Let’s finish the week with an excerpt from Daniel Stepner’s 2013 Centaur Records release of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. Stepner offers period performances of these works, tuning to the lowered A of Bach’s time, and using three fine old instruments: a 1641 Italian Amati violin, a 1740s German Klotz, and a 1693 Stradivari. The recording was made over the course 23 years, between 1989 and 2012. Stepner, who served for many years as first violinist of the Lydian String Quartet and concertmaster of the Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra, teaches at Brandeis and Harvard Universities.
The fugue from Sonata No. 3 in C Major is based on the chorale, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (“Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord”). Here is Bach’s harmonization of the melody. The opening of the chorale, set in a slightly different rhythm, forms the subject of the fugue (the first voice you hear). Listen to the way this melody enters in other voices, forming a musical conversation. Each new voice seems to be saying, “Yes, but that’s not all…” Can you sense a distinct personality in each voice?
Developing Musical Raw Materials
J.S. Bach wove the chorale melody of “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” into at least two other works. You’ll hear it in the bass pedal around the 0:27 mark in the Fantasia super: Komm, heiliger Geist, BWV 651 for organ:
Here it is in another fugue, the Choralbearbeitung Komm, heiliger Geist, BWV 652:
- Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, Daniel Stepner iTunes, Amazon
- Here are a few more samples from the recording: Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en rondeau, Violin Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004: V. Ciaccona, Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005: IV. Allegro assai, Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903 (arr. D. Stepner for violin)
- Bach: Eighteen “Leipzig” Chorale Preludes, Alena Vesela iTunes
- Bach: “Leipzig” Chorale, BWV 651-667, Manuel Tomadin iTunes