Partita for Solo Violin in B minor, BWV 1002
- Tempo di Borea
On the surface, we have a four movement structure of “dance pieces” forming a baroque suite. Bach attaches to each a variation, or double. What’s interesting is Bach’s use of French and Italian language in describing these pieces. Not a Bourée, but a borea. Not a courante, but a corrente. Bach no doubt was channeling the Italian avant garde, when it came to violin writing. When dance suites were, in fact, dance suites, these doubles could be used to extend the dancing, in a very pragmatic way. In Bach’s hands, here however, the variations are not written for pragmatic concerns, they are are but the one example in the series of the six sonatas and partitas for Bach to demonstrate his mastery in writing variations. The challenge for the performer is to keep the pulse of the dance established in the preceding movement alive in the variation that contains more complexity in way of the phrases and number of notes.
Since Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas are so famous and so popular in the recorded canon, there are so many takes on how these dances can be performed. I look at these pairs as statements and counter-statements, the one containing the theme or compositional germ, and the second presenting the opportunity for the virtuoso to show off. The pairings in this way can be seen as written for the introvert and extrovert.