Trio Sonata No.4

Johann Sebastian Bach

Trio Sonata No.4 in G major


About this work

This is probably the original version of Bach's Sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord (BWV 1027). Bach reassigned the first flute part to the gamba, with the right hand of the harpsichordist taking the second flute part and the left hand assuming all of the bass duties. In this first version of the sonata, there is also a viola da gamba, but here it merely reinforces the bass line. The work follows the Italian church sonata format, four movements alternating in slow-fast-slow-fast tempos. And, Italian style, the first two movements often place the instrumental lines in close imitation; this is also a product of Bach's fascination with counterpoint, which extends to the final movement. The flowing first movement, marked Adagio, falls into three major parts. Initially, the first flute lays out the melody over a striding bass, with the second flute providing a simple harmonic line (Bach designed this music to be accessible to amateurs). Then the two flutes share a more complex version of the melody in close imitation. Finally, the first section is repeated, though with a slightly more elaborate role for the second flute (if the player is attuned to the practice of ornamenting repeats). Imitative counterpoint abounds in the sprightly Allegro, which follows from the first movement after an expectant cadence rather than a conclusion. The Allegro's central section consists of the opening melody turned upside-down, winding through new contrapuntal thickets. Third comes the brief Adagio e piano, in which the flutes play gentle, endlessly repeated arpeggios (in a manner later associated with Philip Glass) restlessly wandering through several keys over broken chords in the bass. The concluding Presto is a burbling three-voice fugue, with the right hand of the harpsichordist finally coming into its own.