December 27, 2020
Bach & Baroque Virtuosity
concert is ticket-less
Joyful and amazing works by Vivaldi, Leclair, Bach (Partita in D Minor with the famous Chaconne), and other delights.
“Wong’s extraordinary musician imagination… leads to highly dramatic interpretations.”
— San Francisco Classical Voice
Rachell Ellen Wong
violoncello da spalla
Sonata in B-flat Major, RV 47, for cello and continuo
Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre:
Suite no. 2 in G Minor for harpsichord
Jean Marie Leclair:
Chaconne from the Sonata in G, op. 5, no. 12 for violin and continuo
Johann Sebastian Bach:
Partita in D Minor BWV 1004, for violin (including the famous chaconne)
Thomas Balzar and Davis Mell:
Divisions on “John come kiss me now”
“Flamboyance and tender eloquence…”
— San Francisco
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin are large scale works which transcend the possibilities one would expect from a small instrument with just four strings and a bow. In writing these masterworks Bach drew on diverse styles for inspiration, including music by contemporary Italian violinists and French harpsichordist.
While the violin and the harpsichord are well known instruments of the Baroque era, the violoncello da spalla (cello of the shoulder) is an unusual Baroque instrument only rediscovered in recent years. It may have been designed for violinists and violists to be able to play bass parts, perhaps even to play a bass instrument in procession. Some of Bach’s cello music might have been intended for this instrument, especially pieces for what he called the violoncello piccolo (small cello). Cellos of any kind were just beginning to be used as solo instruments in this period. Vivaldi’s cello sonatas, composed by a violinist, adapt perfectly to the violoncello da spalla.
As the violin became increasingly fashionable in early 18th-century France, French virtuosi such as Jean-Marie Leclair brought a distinctly French flavor to the Italian sonata form. Like many of the great French violinists, Leclair was also a dance master and the chaconne which concludes his Sonata in G Major, op. 5, no. 12, is a joyful tribute to the dance.
J. S. Bach’s Partita in D Minor begins with the four standard movements of a French suite and concludes with a chaconne of monumental proportions. Johannes Brahms wrote of Bach’s chaconne that “On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.”
The form of the chaconne is a set of variations on a ground bass, a short harmonic pattern which is repeated throughout. Earlier examples of this form can be found in “The Division Violin,” published in London in 1684, which includes variations on the popular tune “John Come Kiss Me Now” by the German violinist Thomas Baltzar and the English violinist Davis Mell.