Due to the nature of the violin, which is basically a melody instrument, there are not so many unaccompanied works written for the violin alone, compared to other instruments like the guitar and the piano, which can provide both melody and harmony at the same time.
For a while, I was very interested in unaccompanied violin works, and I performed an unaccompanied recital every year. If it wasn’t with the piano, the violin alone can provide only a limited range of tone color. My teacher did not recommend doing so at the beginning. However, my interest was greater and I was able to spend some years exploring unaccompanied violin works, and I always put Bach’s 6 Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin in the program.
When do you start learning Bach’s Solo Sonatas and Partitas for violin?
You can prepare for Bach’s unaccompanied works by practicing double stops and chords which can be seen in Kreuzer 42 Studies no.32 and on. One can use Dont 24 Studies “Preparatory for Kreuzer and Rode” op.37, no.19 and on, as well.
I started studying Bach when I was working on Kreuzer No. 32 or so (around the time I met my new teacher). As you can see below, I learned one by one from the end of Partita No. 3, made two laps with my teacher, and then proceeded to Ysaye.
I was always interested in Bach and I was so excited to be able to start learning them, since my former teacher never allowed me to do so, because “it is too difficult”.
I was guided by my new teacher in the following order, but I found that there are some teachers who introduce the Bach movements which do not contain double-stops and chords at the beginning, and then the others movements, without relating the movements in whole works, at a rather early stage of violin study.
However, I think there are very young students who cannot find phrases and cannot shape them, even with the teachers’ guidance. Also, some students cannot play with “musical” fingerings, if they are not exposed to enough materials before going into Bach. I would guide my students as I was taught. I wait until my students go through many repertoires for young violinists (there are so many beautiful, musical works for young violinists which can be found in Suzuki Books and Solos for Young Violinists) as well as standard etudes, and have them develop their technique and musical understandings first. Then, when they get to the Kreuzer level, I start to introduce Bach’s 6 Sonatas and Partitas in the order I had learned them, except for those times when the students needs to go through an audition which have certain requirements for Bach.
At ASTA (American String Teachers Association), Bach’s unaccompanied works will appear at Level 8, along with the examples of music suitable for Level 8 to be Beriot concerto no.9, Beethoven Romance F Major, Dvorak Four Romantic Pieces, Haydn Concerto in C major, Wieniawski Legend, etc. As you can see from the chart below, I think it is easier, beneficial and enjoyable for both students and teachers to start Bach’s 6 Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin around the time students reach this level, both technically and musically.
Also, before studying Bach’s unaccompanied work, I learned some of Telemann’s 12 fantasies.
The chart below shows two organization’s placement of the difficulty levels of Bach’s solo works.
|The Royal Conservatory of Music Examination Syllabus, Introductory through ARCT(Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto)||USA (state unknown)|
Solo Repertoire List
(out of 20)
|Partita no.2||Giga||Level 8||12/20|
|Minuet I and II|
|Partita no.1||Corrente||Level 9|
(Viotti concerto no.23, Mozart concerto in G Major k.216 etc)
|Partita no.3||Gavotte en Rondeau|
|Sonata no.3||Allegro assai|
|Sonata no.1||Siciliana||Level 10|
(Kreuzer, Fiorillo, Dont op.37)
|Presto||(Viotti concerto no.22, Kabalevsky, Conus, Beethoven Romance in G Major, Wieniawski Legende etc)||10/20|
|Partita no.1||Allemanda and Double|
|Sarabande and Double|
|Tempo di Bourree and Double|
|Sonata no.1||Fugue||Performer’s ARCT|
What is the easiest movement of Solo Bach?
As you can see below, I think the easiest movement is Giga (Gigue) of Partita no.3 in E Major, then, Bouree in Partita no.3. It seems like many other teachers consider Allemand in Partita no.2 can be very accessable (as you can see above lists), but I think this movement takes more understanding of phrasings.
The order of the movements of Bach’s Solo Sonatas and Partitas I learned
As I mentioned earlier, I changed my teacer while I was studying the Kreuzer 42 Studies, and that was the time I started learning Bach’s unaccompanied works. The previous teacher prevented me studying it because it was “too difficult,” so, it was a great pleasure for me to be able to finally start learning them with my new teacher. It’s certainly a difficult works, but it takes time to learn the notes, and search for the musical expression as well as researching on them. Thus, it’s good to start now, if you/your teacher think you are ready for them. This is the order I learned:
Partita No. 3 Gigue
Partita No. 3 Bourrée
Partita No. 3 Minuet I & II
Partita No. 3 Gavotte
Partita No. 3 Rule
Partita No. 3 Prelude
Partita No. 1 Armando and his double (double means variation)
Partita No. 1 coolant and double
Partita No. 1 Sarabande and Double
Partita No. 1 Tempo Di Boule and Double
Partita No. 2 Armando
Partita No. 2 Crante
Partita No. 2 Sarabande
Partita No. 2 jig
Partita No. 2 Chaconne
Sonata No. 1 Adagio
Sonata No. 1 Fugue
Sonata No. 1 Siciliano
Sonata No. 1 Presto
Sonata No. 2 Grave
Sonata No. 2 Fugue
Sonata No. 2 Andante
Sonata No. 2 Allegro
Sonata No. 3 Adagio
Sonata No. 3 Fugue
Sonata No. 3 Largo
Please let me know how you learned them at below comment section 🙂
Here’s another Bach:
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