Violin Sonata No.6

About this work

The Sonata for Violin and Keyboard in G major, BWV 1019, is the last of six violin sonatas Bach wrote before 1725, most likely while he was Kapellmeister at Cöthen, and revised several years later. Bach may have written them for Prince Leopold to perform, later revising them for his own performance at his Leipzig concerts. The sonatas as a whole are technically accessible to amateurs, while containing musical subtleties to be explored by fine musicians. Typical Baroque sonatas for two instruments indicated that there were two contrapuntal solo lines plus a basso continuo. Bach combined the second solo voice and continuo into the keyboard part, making the keyboard more of a partner to the violin and utilizing the strengths of both instruments.

This sonata differs from the other five in that it is comprised of five movements instead of four. In its final version, an extra Allegro precedes the slow-fast-slow-fast structure of the rest of the sonata. As with other late Baroque sonatas, each movement conveys a particular emotion, or Affekt. The opening Allegro should portray brilliancy. Smooth, flashy running lines in the violin and keyboard right hand fit together closely. The Largo, in E minor, is sorrowful with its singing violin melody supported by a more embellished keyboard countermelody. The third movement, a second Allegro and also in E minor, is for keyboard alone. It displays a pensive and somewhat sad mood, with writing similar to that of his Two-Part Inventions. The fourth movement, Adagio, should be affected with melancholy, "the singular spun out rhythms and the rich harmony of the movement border on the bizarre." It begins with the keyboard stating the slow, B minor melody followed by the violin, passing it back and forth throughout. Syncopations make the listener wait breathlessly for resolution of the harmonies. The last movement is a lively Allegro, based on a theme from the cantata Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202. Back in G major, it is at turns bouncy and fluid, with quick trills attached to sixty-fourth notes and emphasis on the off-beats enlivening the movement.

In the first version of the sonata, the fourth movement had been another Adagio, a variation on the Courante and Gavotte of Partita No. 6 for keyboard, BWV 830. In the second version of the sonata, the keyboard Allegro was replaced by a Cantabile ma un poco Adagio for both instruments that had the Affekt of "wheedling (coaxing) and expressive." This was based on an aria from the cantata Gott, man lobet dich in der stille, BWV 120.