Johann Sebastian Bach
Violin Partita No. 2
Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method
Duration: Approx. 30 Minutes
Time of Creation: between 1717 and 1720
World Premiere: Unknown
Table of Contents
Bach's Violin Partita No. 2 in 5 Sentences
Bach’s Violin Partita No. 2 belongs to a six-part cycle in which Bach combined three sonatas and partitas each for solo violin. What is special about this cycle is above all Bach’s artful polyphonic writing, which indicates that polyphonic thought was used on a monophonic instrument (violin). Violin Partita No. 2 consists of an allemande, a courante, a sarabande, a gigue, and a chaconne (I wrote more about the Baroque dance movements in this article). Music for solo violin was rather rare at the time Bach’s partitas and sonatas were written. It therefore stands to reason that Bach wrote these pieces as recitals for himself.
4 Highlights from Bach's Violin Partita No. 2
Highlight 1: Allemande
Bach’s Violin Partita No. 2 begins with an Allemande, a two-part “German” dance:
Highlight 2: Sarabande
The Courante (2nd movement) is followed by a Sarabande, an elegant court dance of the Baroque era:
Highlight 3: Gigue
The following Gigue is characterized by fluid movement:
Highlight 4: Chaconne
The Chaconne is the famous peculiarity of Bach’s Violin Partita No. 2. This concerns on the one hand the fact that it exists at all (a Chaconne was not foreseen in the “usual” sequence of movements), and on the other hand its extent: it virtually bursts the Partita, for it alone lasts as long as all the other movements together.
In a chaconne, several variations run over a constantly repeated bass line. Bach wrote 32 variations in this case, creating perhaps the most famous chaconne to date:
3 Questions and Answers about Bach's Violin Partita No. 2
Question 1: On which other composers did Bach base his Violin Partita No. 2?
Bach could have been inspired by the German composers and violinists Johann Paul von Westhoff (whom Bach knew personally) and Johann Georg Pisendel. There are compositions for solo violin by both of them.
Question 2: Who played the first performance of Bach's 2nd violin partita?
Who played Bach’s 2nd violin partita is unknown. There are several conjectures: For example, the violin virtuosos Johann Georg Pisendel, Jean-Baptiste Volumier as well as Joseph Spieß could have been the interpreters. But it is also conceivable that Bach performed the composition himself, since he was a very good violinist.
Question 3: What is special about Bach's Violin Partita No. 2?
What is special about Bach’s Violin Partita No. 2 is that Bach follows the sequence of movements established by Johann Jakob Froberger in Germany (Allemande – Courante – Sarabande – Gigue) with a Chaconne as the final movement, which alone lasts as long as all the previous movements together.
2 Recommended Recordings of Bach's Violin Partita No. 2
Recording 1: Shunske Sato (video production, 2015)
I think Shunske Sato succeeds particularly well in maintaining the improvisatory character which, after all, should always be considered in baroque music. One almost gets the feeling that he is “composing” Bach’s Violin Partita No. 2 as he plays it. This leads to a recording that is never boring, but always on the edge of risk: