Bach was a master of adaptation and reuse. He made a habit of crafting harpsichord concerti out of previously written concerti for other instruments.
Such is the case with the Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052, which is believed to be a transcription of a long-lost Bach violin concerto. The score is filled with passages which fit neatly into the violin as bariolage, “the alternation of notes on adjacent strings, one of which is usually open,” to magically outline chordal harmony. For the violinist, Shunske Sato, a large part of the appeal of Bach’s music is the potentiality behind a great idea. He believes that Bach’s development and reuse of ideas challenges the meaning of “original.” Sato adds, “I’m forced to concede that Bach was pretty outrageous.”
The reconstructed Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052R shows Bach at his most edgy and outrageous. Erupting as a force of nature, the Concerto is an exhilarating and harrowing joyride, filled with crackling virtuosity and fire. Jarringly irregular phrases meet harsh, ferocious dissonances. In the first movement (Allegro), following the initial statement of the ritornello (a recurring tutti section), the solo violin launches into a ghostly stream of running notes amid sighing figures and growling bass pedal tones in the orchestra. With the return of the ritornello (0:38), the lines begin to break into canonic counterpoint, with off-kilter jabs in the viola. Beginning with a gloomy, unison statement of the bass line, the second movement (Adagio) evokes a sense of haunting melancholy. At times, the violin cries out in anguish. As the movement progresses, the music ventures ever deeper into a dense, forbidding forest. The final movement (Allegro) brings more virtuosic fireworks and ghostly drama. The influence of Vivaldi is evident. A daring cadenza erupts in the solo violin, just before the final ritornello.
This blazing performance, recorded on December 6, 2019, features Shunske Sato and the Netherlands Bach Society:
- J.S. Bach: Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 105R, Shunske Sato, Il Pomo d’Oro Amazon
Featured Image: “Vesuvius from Portici” (1774), Joseph Wright of Derby