01 June 2011

Different interpretations of Bach Chaconne BWV 1004

A: It is easy: Just play it only with the left hand!

I am talking about

BWV 1004 Chaconne

by J. S. Bach (1685–1750)

Music preview

It was written for Violine and it is really a demanding piece for a master violonist.
So Brahms made a transcription for piano but only for the right hand.

Johannes Brahms, in a letter to Clara Schumann, said about the ciaccona:[1]
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. (Wikipedia) 

But here is a version where you can see what the violine is playing:

Thomas Zehetmaier 1

Thomas Zehetmaier 2

And of course there is a version for guitar:

Manuel Barrueco

Bach's Chaconne, by Manuel Barrueco [Complete]

And for the flute (score)

But the best version, at least for me, is based on an analyzes of Helga Thoene. She found hidden choral quotations and explains that the Chaconne is a tribute to the sudden death of the Bach's wife Maria Barbara (1684-1720). Bach was not at home when this tragedy took place. 

So this was more of a "tombeau - an epithaph in music" dedicated to her memory.
You will find in the score
  • Christ lag in Todesbanden
  • Hallelujah
  • The Name "B - a - c - h" 
  • Den Tod niemand zwingen kann
  • Wo soll ich fliehen hin
  • Befiehl Du Deine Wege
  • Jesu, meine Freude
  • Auf meinen lieben Gott trau ich in Angst und Not
  • Jesu, Deine Passion
  • In meines Herzens Grunde
  • ..
At first I was really skeptic about what was interpreted, but if you look at this wonderful book and the score within: It fits.

The book about the BWV 1004 comes with a CD "Morimur". And there you can hear Christoph Poppen and the Hilliard Ensemble perform the Partita and the discoveries of Helga Thoene.

I repeat myself: For me after hearing it a hundred times, still the best.

Stay Tuned. There will be follow up articles to the Chaconne.