Bach's Works for Solo Violin: Style, Structure, Performance

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9780195171440: Bach's Works for Solo Violin: Style, Structure, Performance

J. S. Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin have been central to the violin repertoire since the mid-eighteenth century. This engaging volume is the first comprehensive exploration of the place of these works within Bach's music: it focuses on their structural and stylistic features as they have been perceived since their creation. Joel Lester, a highly regarded scholar, teacher, violinist, and administrator, combines an analytical study, a full historical guide, and an insightful introduction to Bach's style. Individual movements are related to comparable movements by Bach in other media and are differentiated from superficially similar works from later eras.

Lester employs descriptions of historical and contemporary recordings, as well as accounts of nineteenth-century performances and commentaries on historical editions, to explore these works as they evolved through the centuries. Wherever possible, he uses analytic tools culled from eighteenth-century ideas, key notions originally developed for the specific purpose of describing the repertoire under consideration. Beginning with an overview of the solo violin music's place within Bach's oeuvre, this study takes the Sonata No. 1 in G minor as the paradigm of Bach's compositional strategy, examining each movement in detail before enlarging the discussion to cover parallel and contrasting features of the A-minor and C-minor sonatas. Next, a chapter is devoted to the three partitas and their roots in various dance-music traditions. The book concludes with a summary of form, style, and rhetoric in Bach's music, in which Lester muses on these masterpieces with an overall command of the music, criticism, and history of the 1700s that is quite rare among scholars.

A novel and unprecedented investigation of a particular portion of Bach's accomplishment and a particular aspect of his universal appeal, Bach's Works for Solo Violin will help violinists, students, scholars, and other listeners develop a deeper personal involvement with these wonderful pieces.

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About the Author:

Joel Lester is the Dean of the Mannes College of Music. He has been active in many areas of music education, scholarship, and performance for three decades. The author of several books, he is a former editor of Music Theory Spectrum.


"The volume thus has a quadruple purpose, providing an analytical study and historical guide to Bach's solo-violin works, an introduction to Bach's style and its evolution and a forum for authoritative discussion of selected performance issues....will certainly assist violinists, students, scholars and other listeners to develop new perspectives on this music...and encourage the cultivation of more informed and more vivid performances." --The Strad

"Serious violinists and theorists will applaud the thoroughness of Lester's work."--Choice

"Joel Lester is one of America's leading theorists and analysts of music, as well as a professional violinist. He is therefore uniquely qualified to write a serious analytical and interpretive study of J. S. Bach's violin music. . . . It's quite incredible that, despite the stature and importance of this music, there has never been a serious full-length study of its repertoire. That is, until now. . . . This book is richly informative and insightful, abundantly displaying Lester's learning and analytical talents. It is also engagingly written."--Robert L. Marshall, Brandeis University

"Performers will find this book's discussion of recordings invaluable, its performance-oriented analyses helpful in understanding the logic behind interpretation, and its historical excursuses informative. . . . Lester has the reputation of being an excellent performer, is a recognized scholar in the history of theory, and has written a harmony textbook. Who better to bring all of these talents and accomplishments to a book of this sort?"--Lee A. Rothfarb, University of California at Santa Barbara

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