Bach’s Partita No. 5 in G Major, BWV 829: An Exercise in Spiritual Delight

J.S. Bach’s Six Partitas, BWV 825-830 were conceived as exercises for the body, mind, and spirit. Composed between 1725 and 1731, these were the last of Bach’s keyboard suites. Yet, they were published by the Leipzig-employed composer as “opus 1,” and offered “to music lovers in order to refresh their spirits.” This collection of Partitas (richly contrasting Baroque dances) fuses technical advancement with spiritual delight. They influenced later composers, from Brahms to Bartók. Bach’s earliest biographer, …

Read more

Bach’s Trio Sonata in G Major, BWV 1039: Traverso Triumph

J.S. Bach’s Trio Sonata in G Major, BWV 1039 overflows with sensuous melodies, magical contrapuntal conversations, and joyous rhythmic motion. The Sonata is scored for two flutes and basso continuo. It was probably written between 1736 and 1741 when Bach was director of Leipzig’s Collegium Musicum. The chamber music society presented weekly concerts at the Café Zimmermann coffeehouse. This music was so popular that Bach created a version for viola da gamba and …

Read more

Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825: Music of “Spiritual Delight”

Published in 1726, the Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825 is the first of a set of six keyboard suites which J.S. Bach composed between 1725 and 1731. Following the English and French Suites, this music was groundbreaking, both technically and musically. Bach referred to it as his “opus 1,” and offered it “to music lovers in order to refresh their spirits.” Here, Bach is cast in the role of …

Read more

Celebratory Bach: From the E Major Partita to the Cantata, BWV 29

J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E Major for solo violin begins with the famous and iconic Preludio.  Sweeping forward in a continuous stream of sixteenth notes, it forms a celebratory musical announcement. The opening bars employ a virtual pedal tone which remains rooted in E major for more than half a minute. Then, the music leaves “home” and moves through a series of adventures, only to return, triumphantly, in the coda. We get …

Read more

Leonidas Kavakos Plays Bach: Sonata No. 3 in C Major, Adagio and Fuga

The Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos describes J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (BWV 1001–1006) as “the most perfect music ever written.” The violin is an instrument which is usually associated with a single, singing melodic line. Yet Bach’s six suites open the door to a magical polyphonic world in which a single violin can create multiple voices. This counterpoint is especially vivid in the three fugues (included in the Sonatas) and the D …

Read more

Bach’s “Canon a 2 Cancrizans” from “The Musical Offering”: A Divine Puzzle

The canon, which features one or more imitations of the same melodic line performed at varying intervals over a given duration, is one of music’s most intriguing contrapuntal devices. In The Musical Offering, BWV 1079, J.S. Bach takes this technique a step further with the canon cancrizans, or “crab canon.” Here, the melodic line can be played as written, and also in reverse, in a way similar to a crab crawling backwards. …

Read more

Bach’s Triple Concerto in A Minor, BWV 1044: The Art of Recycling

J.S. Bach constructed the Concerto for Flute, Violin, and Harpsichord, BWV 1044 out of used parts. The outer movements were adapted from the Prelude and Fugue in A minor for solo harpsichord, BWV 894. The second movement was based on the Adagio e dolce from the Trio Sonata for Organ in D minor, BWV 527. It is likely that these two works developed from early pieces by Bach that have been lost. All of …

Read more

Send this to a friend