restricted access 3—Analytical Methods and Exercises
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16 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. Ideally, the first step is to sit down without the instrument and read through the particular movement, hearing its harmonic structure and discerning its architecture. This is where a fairly simple analytical process helps. The literal meaning of the word analysis—“a breaking up”—aptly describes the process by which we may gain insight into the complex yet logical structure of Bach’s solo violin compositions. In this chapter, I shall provide a set of analytical exercises designed to separate the music into component parts, the better to understand its harmonic and melodic structure. First, though, let us consider an important fact. The title of these works, Sei Solo a Violino senza Basso accompagnato, is somewhat misleading, for “Basso Accompagnato ” merely refers to the customary support of the solo voice by continuo accompaniment on a keyboard, stringed, or plucked instrument. However, because there is no continuo part, the accompaniment is skillfully woven into the solo texture. In the preamble to my course entitled “The Interpretation of Unaccompanied Bach,” therefore , I announce to the class that this is a course about something that does not exist: There is no such thing as “unaccompanied” Bach. Players of treble instruments tend to focus their attention on the upper line to the neglect of the bass, and consequently to overlook its significance in supporting harmonic progressions, which shape the music dynamically and control the expression. The bass line is therefore the most important element in any Baroque composition, and the performer must be aware of it at all times, for it is the foundation of the music ’s harmonic structure. It is also essential to be able to identify the simple melodic lines embedded in Bach’s often-florid text. In this chapter I use excerpts from various movements to demonstrate analytical methods that help us understand his logic. chapter three Analytical Methods and Exercises 17 Analytical Methods and Exercises G-Minor Adagio Using as an example the opening measures of the G-minor Sonata, the first exercise I give my class is the identification and extraction of the bass line. The parentheses in m. 3 show that the E-flat is to be heard as the bass note even though it is only touched on briefly in mid-melisma.1 Note that, for analytical purposes, the length of the bass notes indicates the duration of the particular harmony: Bach’s are shorter mainly for compositional reasons: the bass notes are frequently unplayable as written, but to me they indicate the degree of energy at the moment—the shorter, the more energetic. The next analytical step is the addition of figures to identify the harmonies: 1. I discuss the controversial E-natural on beat three of m. 3 in chapter 4, “The Improvisatory Movements.” { { { { { c c c c & # ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ b ?## ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ b &b f b # , mf f , mp p ? b m 7 c n 6 f 2 , 6 7 7 d 4 3 &b ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ? b ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ &b # Ÿ ? b &b Ÿ Ÿ ?b ( ) œ œ œœœœœœœœœ œœœ œ # œœœ œ ‰ œ œ b œœ œ b œ b œ # œœ œ œ n œ R œ j œ™ œœœœœœ œ œœœœ œ # œ œ œ™ œœœœœ j Ó œ # œœœ œ J œ # œ ˙ œ œ œ œ ˙ Ó œ œ œ œ œ œ œ b œ œ œ œ œœ œ œ œ œ # œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œœ œ œ œ œœœ œ œ™ œœœ œ œj œj® œj œ œœœœ ‰ œ b œ œ J œj œj ˙ ˙ ˙ œ œ œ J œœ œ b œ ‰ ‰ œ œ # œ œ œ j œ œ œ b œœœœœ œj œ œ # œœ œ b œœœœœœœ œ œ J œ ‰ œ œ # œ œ œj œr ‰ œ œœ œ n œr ‰ œ œ œj œj œ j ‰ œ œ œœœ™œœ œ œ J œ #J œ r ‰ œ R ‰ œ œ œ b œ™ œ J œ œ b œ œ œ™ œ j œ # œ œ { { { { 7 4 h 7 d n 7 3 6 6 d 7 7 6 5 4d 7 d 7 6 7 n c c &b Ÿ n ? b &b Ÿ Ÿ , n Ÿ ? b &b ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ?b ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ &b ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ? b ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ œ œ œ œ œœ œ b œœœœœœ œ œ œ œ # œ œ n œœœœœœœ œ #œ œœœœœœ™œœœœ œ J œj ® œ J œœœœœ œ b œ œ J œ J ‰ œœ œ b œ œj œj ˙ ˙ ˙ œ œ œ ‰ ‰ œœ # œœ œ J œ œ œ b œœœœœ œj œ œ # œœ œ b œœœœœœœ œ œ nJ œ ‰ œ œ # œ œ œ J œ r ‰ œ œ œ # œ œ r ‰ œ œ œ j œ j œ #J ‰ œ œ œœ œ n ™œœ œ œ j œ J œ r ‰ œ R ‰ œ œ œ b œœ œ œ b œ œ œ™ œ j œ # œ œ 18 The Accompaniment in “Unaccompanied” Bach And next, the reduction of the melodic line, by removal of ornamental notes, to a simple version such as one finds, for instance, in Corelli’s op. 5 sonatas: Due to a common misperception among violinists that the highest voice is always the most important, when it is frequently only a descant line, one often hears this bizarre rendition of m. 2: This is quite incorrect, for the F-sharp in the soprano leads to the G, a descant voice, while the alto—the principal voice—moves from the C, through the cadential ornament, to resolve...


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