Sparks fly in the exhilarating Preludio which opens J.S. Bach’s Violin Sonata in E minor, BWV 1023.
The solo violin unleashes a bold and virtuosic toccata over a mighty E pedal tone in the continuo bass. In many of Bach’s other sonatas, the violin enters into a supporting role with the harpsichord. Here, amid a torrent of bariolage (the alternation of notes on adjacent strings to outline chords), it moves squarely into the spotlight. The Adagio ma non tanto which follows wanders into a mysterious and desolate soundscape. Its lamenting drama, set with occasional wrenching dissonances, might remind you of the most sorrowful movements from Bach’s religious cantatas. The sonata concludes with two baroque dances—an Allemande and a Gigue. Motivically, the opening bars of the Gigue seem to grow out of the Allemande.
Bach wrote this music some time around 1717 during his final days as director of music in Weimar. This performance comes from a 2000 recording featuring violinist Rachel Podger and harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock:
- J.S. Bach: Sonata for Violin and Continuo in E Minor, BWV 1023 Rachel Podger, Trevor Pinnock channelclassics.com