Violin Sonata No.2

Johann Sebastian Bach

Violin Sonata No.2 in A major


About this work

Although Bach's Sonata No. 2 in A major for violin and harpsichord, BWV 1015, may seem virtually identical to the first of the set in terms of general structure and movement layout, a closer listen reveals that it is really quite individual in shape, content, and -- most significantly -- character. In the new realm of the duo sonata, it is every bit as warm and ingratiating a piece as its immediate predecessor is stern and, at times, lean.

BWV 1015 in A major is, like each of the other five unquestionably authentic violin/harpsichord sonatas, a work whose four movements follow the traditional slow-fast-slow-fast plan of the Baroque sonata da chiesa. The liquid melody that opens the 6/8 time first movement (which has no tempo indication) may be sweetness itself, but Bach still treats it as a subject for imitation in the opening bars; within just a few bars the movement has become a cascade of inviting sixteenth-note gestures in three voices. The Allegro assai second movement is, like the second movement of the Sonata No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1014, a semi-fugal vessel in three sections (ABA'), but there the similarity ends. Its exuberantly arched subject is the antithesis of the compact, Corellian subject used in BWV 1014, and a subsidiary strain that pits leggiero eighth-note arpeggios in the violin against brilliantly scalloped sixteenths in the harpsichord right-hand has no parallel at all in the B minor Sonata movement. The third movement of the Sonata No. 2 in A major, Andante un poco in F sharp minor, is a famous one; it is a strict two-voice canon (with bass accompaniment, of course) from start to finish. But for all its academic contrivance, it is as rich and songful as one might ever hope. The Presto finale is a binary operation, fugal at the start but abandoning that subject for a new idea at the start of the second half (this new idea is actually a derivative of a secondary idea in the first half). Only at the very end does the original subject return -- in flashy, stretto fashion.