9—The Philosophical Movements
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87 The Allemanda 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, but more of the nature of an introduction—a philosophical piece that precedes the actual dances. B-Minor Allemanda For all its stateliness and nobility of spirit, the appearance of this Allemanda, with its dotted rhythms, belies its essential lyricism. I often hear it referred to as a French Overture, which it certainly isn’t, or that it should be played in the style of one, rather staccato and energized, with which I respectfully disagree. The confusion most probably stems from a misunderstanding about the variable nature of dotted rhythms in Baroque music. The dotted eighth-sixteenth figure is susceptible to a variety of interpretations according to context. Certainly in a vigorous context, as in many French overtures, the rendition will be crisp and the dot lengthened even to the extent of “double-dotting.”3 At the other extreme, as in the B-minor Corrente, the figure may be played as a triplet.4 Before examining the dotted passages, though, let’s look at the chords in the opening measures, each of which needs to be rolled quite concisely from the bass note, 1. J. G. Walther, Musicalisches Lexicon, oder Musicalische Bibliothec (Leipzig, 1732). 2. F. W. Marpurg, Clavierstücke mit einem practischen Unterricht, i–iii (Berlin, 1762–1763). 3. This idea was proposed by Leopold Mozart (op. cit.) as an explanation of the normal way of rendering dotted rhythms in his time. It is much more customary now to refer to the practice as “overdotting,” thereby avoiding a sense of mathematical strictness. 4. Our familiar long-short triplet figure in a duple metre was virtually never used until well into the nineteenth century, and the dotted eighth-sixteenth notation can frequently be read in this way. chapter nine The Philosophical Movements 88 The Accompaniment in “Unaccompanied” Bach which is on the beat.5 Once more, the choice of appropriate length of the voices is critical: prolong the upper voice slightly, but note that there is also melodic interest in the alto, so be careful not to pass too rapidly to the E-string, but linger long enough on the A-string for this to be perceptible. The thirty-second-notes after the trill may be interpreted correctly as a Nachschlag, slurred into the trill, or else bowed separately—an artistic decision. On the other hand, it should be noted that similar pairs of thirty-seconds occur throughout the movement and could thereby acquire the status of a motivic figure. Slurring them each time would deprive the movement of a lot of its energy, and my preference is always to play them separately. The fact that Bach does occasionally slur them need not necessarily, I feel, be interpreted as an indication that he intended others to be treated similarly. Here’s my bowing solution for the opening measures: When using Z-bowing on extended passages, the bow direction often needs to be adjusted: the idea is to flow from one end to the other with continual arm motion, acknowledging the contours of the phrase: The lines symbolize constant bow direction: the arm never stops moving. Here’s an experiment that explains my perception of the function of the dotted rhythms in this movement: Play the opening phrase, substituting equal legato eighthnotes for the dotted figures: the effect is quite different, rather stately and measured, the music seeming to move more slowly, and yet not implausibly so. Then restore the dots, being careful not to stiffen the rhythm staccato-style, but still playing the notes legato and as they come.6 As I see it, the effect of the dotted rhythm is to make the music flow easily, and in order to facilitate this, I make use of “Z-bowing” (a technique described in chapter 11, “Right-Hand Technique”) to create a flowing legato line but with varying energy according to context. Whereas triplet rendition of the dotted figures in this movement would sound lazy, excessive overdotting will make it jerky; when it is played using Z-bowing, and being careful to play the sixteenth-note lightly, one can achieve...