BACH, J.S.: Sonatas, BWV 1001, 1003 and 1005 (Bonnie Silver/ Nicholas Goluses) (Naxos: 8.553193)
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J. S. Bach (1685 - 1750)
Sonatas Nos.1-3, BWV 1001, 1003 & 1005
(Transcribed for Guitar)
In 1717, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen offered the position of court Kapellmeister to Johann Sebastian Bach. Despite the fact that Bach did not subscribe to the Prince's Calvinist beliefs, he accepted the offer. Leopold employed an exceptionally talented chamber orchestra, and he himself was capable of singing bass and of playing the violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord. As a result, Bach found himself in an atmosphere conducive to his work, and produced a profusion of compositions. A great part of his output from these years is lost, but what has been preserved -works such as the six Brandenburg Concertos, the Well-Tempered Clavier, and the Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin -reflects the exuberance of an artist discovering new opportunities for expression and the peace of mind of a composer who had found genuine understanding and appreciation in his new patron.
Johann Sebastian Bach's Three Sonatas and Three Partitas, BWV 1001 -1006, completed in 1720, stand among the most powerful manifestations of his genius. The three Sonatas are patterned after the Italian sonata da chiesa, the origins of which are rooted in the earlier Italian liturgical practice of performing instrumental interludes during the Mass. The sonata da chiesa was popularised outside the church in the works of many composers; in their mature form these sonatas were usually constructed in four movements arranged in the order slow-fast-slow-fast. The first was of a solemn introductory nature, often elaborated spontaneously by the performer. The next, usually fugal in style, was the most cerebral and weighty of the four. A tranquil aria would follow, leading to a virtuosic, bravura, and dance-like finale.
Bach's exposure to the sonata da chiesa was surely augmented by his study of the extensive Italian music collection in the library of Prince Leopold at Cöthen, and his fascination with the Italian style is apparent in his own works from this period on. In this enthusiasm he transcribed several of Vivaldi' s violin concertos for the harpsichord, yet in the process of assimilation, Bach combined Italian and German traditions to create unique hybrids which are characterized by greater polyphonic elaboration and more complex harmonic vocabulary.
The transcription of music for bowed stringed instruments to plucked stringed instruments was widely practiced in the Baroque and was often used by Bach himself. Bach left several models from which much information may be acquired: he transcribed several movements of these sonatas for the lute and the harpsichord, and for the organ as well. The editions heard on this recording follow Bach's example in their treatment of texture, range, ornamentation, phrasing and articulation. Performed here in Bach's original keys to preserve Baroque affect, the three sonatas traverse a wide range of Baroque expression, from the dark density of Sonata No.1 in G Minor to the bright, expansive style galant textures of Sonata No.3 in C Major.
Sonata No.1 in G Minor, BWV 1001, is the quintessence of the high-Baroque with its austere character, highly decorated ornamentation, and taut counterpoint. This setting follows Bach's example from his Suite No.5 in C Minor, BWV 1011, for unaccompanied cello, which requires a scordatura to darken the sound of the cello - the present edition for guitar similarly lowers the fifth and sixth strings to darken the resonance of the guitar, creating a more appropriate \registration" for the key of G Minor. The highly ornate Adagio which opens the sonata recalls the great organ toccatas of Frescobaldi. The Fuga from this sonata was transcribed by the composer for organ (BWV 539); it also exists in tablature notation for the nouveau-ton Baroque lute (BWV 1000). The third movement, an elegant Siciliana in the relative-major key of B flat, is characteristic of the third movement of these sonatas in its celestial beauty. The final Presto greatly resembles an Italian Giga with its ternary rhythms and articulation resulting from its implied counterpoint.
Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 1003, moves toward a brighter character and more expansive development. This entire sonata comes down to us in version for harpsichord (BWV 964), widely attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach but possibly by his eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Where appropriate, many of the innovations from this later harpsichord version have been incorporated into the editions for this recording, including the striking chromaticism heard at ending of the opening Grave. The Fuga is a titanic movement, whose extended episodal sections are rich in style brisé textures. The third movement is a tranquil Andante in the relative-major key, and final movement is a cascading Allegro whose last four measures are treated as a petit reprise.
Sonata No.3 in C Major, BWV 1005, is a massive work with characteristics of the style galant, very much in fashion at the time. The opening Adagio was transcribed by Bach for the harpsichord (BWV968); the Fuga from this movement is a gigantic 354 measure fugue whose subject is based on the Lutheran chorale hymn, Komm Heilger Geist, Herre Gott. This work may be the longest existing fugue of Bach, which many scholars believe to have originally existed in the form of a work for the organ. The third movement, Largo, is in the subdominant key F Major and is one of the most tender of all Bach's pastoral movements. The final movement is a brilliant allegro assai which draws this final sonata to a triumphant conclusion.
Nicolas Goluses is Professor of Guitar at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, and has also held the Andrés Segovia Faculty Chair at Manhattan School of Music, where he received the Pablo Casals Award for Musical Accomplishment and Human Endeavour and the Faculty Award of Distinguished Merit. He has appeared as a soloist, chamber-music player and with orchestras throughout the Americas, in Europe and the Far East. Committed to the performance of new music, Nicolas Goluses has given the first performances of a number or concertos for guitar and orchestra as well as of solo and chamber music by many of the world's leading composers.
Performing editions by Nicholas Goluses are published by Tuscany editions, Temple Terrace, Florida, USA and distributed by Theodore Presser, Co., Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.