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The Accompaniment in "Unaccompanied" Bach

Interpreting the Sonatas and Partitas for Violin

Stanley Ritchie

Publication Year: 2016

Known around the world for his advocacy of early historical performance and as a skilled violin performer and pedagogue, Stanley Ritchie has developed a technical guide to the interpretation and performance of J. S. Bach's enigmatic sonatas and partitas for solo violin. Unlike typical Baroque compositions, Bach's six solos are uniquely free of accompaniment. To add depth and texture to the pieces, Bach incorporated various techniques to bring out a multitude of voices from four strings and one bow, including arpeggios across strings, multiple stopping, opposing tonal ranges, and deft bowing. Published in 1802, over 80 years after its completion in 1720, Bach's manuscript is without expression marks, leaving the performer to freely interpret the dynamics, fingering, bowings, and articulations. Marshaling a lifetime of experience, Stanley Ritchie provides violinists with deep insights into the interpretation and technicalities at the heart of these challenging pieces.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Publications of the Early Music Institute

Cover

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Half Title, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright, Quotation

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Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Foreword

Mauricio Fuks

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pp. xi-xii

Stanley Ritchie’s Interpreting “Unaccompanied” Bach is a masterful and comprehensive study of Bach’s three Sonatas and three Partitas for solo violin. Professor Ritchie’s cultivated and deeply incisive analysis covers all the technical elements and stylistic considerations involved in arriving at a convincing period-style interpretation of these masterpieces ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

Writing this book has been a labor of love: studying, performing, and teaching this music have all contributed significantly to my growth as a musician. The decision to write the book was the result, the natural outcome, of my having taught for many years a course in this subject at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music— ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sei Solo à Violino senza Basso accompagnato bears the date 1720. Its uniqueness as an extended example of unaccompanied composition is striking, because there are so few compositions of that genre that have come down to us from that period and none of such scope. ...

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1—Principles of Interpretation

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pp. 5-9

My purpose in this opening chapter is to summarize information about various aspects of the topic, which will be alluded to throughout the book and provide the basis for clearer understanding of ideas that may frequently be novel or at odds with contemporary concepts of interpretation. ...

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2—Dance Forms

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pp. 10-15

Dance was an essential element of court life in eighteenth-century Europe, and whereas none of Bach’s Partita movements was intended for use as ballroom accompaniment, we should bear in mind that knowledge of the characteristics and appropriate tempi of the various dances is essential if we seek to approximate their style. ...

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3—Analytical Methods and Exercises

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pp. 16-23

A trap into which one can fall all too easily when studying one of the Sonatas or Partitas for the first time, or when returning to it, is imitating a favorite recorded performance. This is a shame, because there is so much that one can glean from the music itself, especially from the facsimile, in the creation of one’s own personal interpretation. ...

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4—The Improvisatory Movements

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pp. 24-34

In general, movements labeled “Adagio” in Baroque repertoire are an invitation to the performer to play with free expression, reacting to the various rhetorical stimuli in the music in a fluid, flexible way, unconstrained by considerations of metronomic precision, so that what results is as natural as speech. ...

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5—The Fugues

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pp. 35-45

One may liken a fugue to an oration, in that the subject is announced simply and is then expounded upon and the subject matter examined in detail and developed. In working through the argument, the orator will reinforce points using various rhetorical devices, all of which have counterparts in musical figures.1 ...

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6—The Ostinato Movements

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pp. 46-56

The term ostinato, which translates literally as “stubborn,” is associated mainly with ground basses, but may be applied also to the persistent repetition of a rhythmic figure or a harmonic pattern, or even, as in the case of Ravel’s Bolero, to an entire sixteen-measure unit. Two of the most familiar ostinato forms, the Chaconne and the Passacaglia, were interchangeable and even combined or alternated in one composition, ...

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7—The Dancelike Movements

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pp. 57-76

The Bourée as a social dance was a relatively complex mixture of leaps, hops, and the tems de courante (a gesture consisting of a bend, rise, and slide), and Bach’s sole movement of this genre in his third Partita clearly transmits the nature of the choreography. The characteristic, light energy of this dance is projected by the use of lifted bow-strokes on the first two quarter-notes and clear articulations thereafter: ...

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8—The Virtuoso Movements

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pp. 77-86

One word of caution: with the possible exception of the finale of the C-major Sonata, with its constant pedal-like sixteenth-note thread, none of these movements is a moto perpetuo. If one thinks of “presto” as meaning “as fast as possible,” it’s preferable and more effective to translate that as “as fast as the music will tolerate.” ...

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9—The Philosophical Movements

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pp. 87-93

The Allemande was likened by Walther in 1732 to a rhetorical “Proposition, woraus die übrigen Suiten, als die Courante, Sarabande, und Gigue, als Partes fliessen.1 Thirty years later, Marpurg referred to the Allemande as similar to the Prelude.2 This is precisely the way in which I view the two Allemandas, inasmuch as the character of these movements is not so dance-like in the rhythmic sense, ...

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10—The Lyrical Movements

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pp. 94-99

This term was commonly used to refer to an aria type and instrumental movement popular in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and often to a dance commonly considered a form of slow Gigue. In the eighteenth century, the Siciliana was associated with pastoral scenes and melancholy emotions. It was as a dance, however, that the Siciliana was known to eighteenth-century theorists, Mattheson suggesting that it be performed slowly and used to evoke melancholy passions. ...

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11—Right-Hand Technique

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pp. 100-108

The final two chapters of this book are substantially identical to material in my previous volume, Before the Chinrest—A Guide to the Mysteries of Pre-Chinrest Technique and Style (Indiana University Press, 2012), but treat much of what has been discussed herein in greater depth. The first book was directed at those wishing to experiment with and become proficient in the use of the earlier instrument and bow, but “modern” violinists often discover that certain “Baroque” concepts are transferable and actually facilitate technical execution on their own instruments. ...

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12—Left-Hand Technique

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pp. 109-115

Just as there is a type of right-hand technique that facilitates the execution of otherwise-awkward passages in Bach’s solo polyphony, there are certain concepts of fingering that I recommend in order to facilitate vocal clarity, tonal homogeneity, and melodic fluency. The difference between fingering that’s appropriate in Bach’s polyphonic works and in standard, post-Baroque music is the result of changing aesthetic notions. ...

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Last Words

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pp. 116-118

There are now many recordings of these works—far more than when I was a student—and I am not about to recommend one over another. The choice of a favorite recording is a matter of personal taste, and as I said in my introduction, it’s impossible to identify anyone’s interpretation as “right.” ...

Bibliography

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pp. 119-120

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780253022080
E-ISBN-10: 0253022088
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253021984

Page Count: 136
Illustrations: 1 b&w illus, 231 music exx.
Publication Year: 2016

Series Title: Publications of the Early Music Institute
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 945121337
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Accompaniment in "Unaccompanied" Bach