September 26, 2011 – Baroque Works for Solo Violin (besides Bach)

The Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin by J.S. Bach are probably the most widely known works for solo violin in the repertoire, however, other composers also wrote solo works for violin. Among the baroque composers contributing to this repertoire were:

  • Heinrich Ignatz Franz von Biber – Passacaglia at end of Rosary Sonatas (Performance on Youtube by Hirschfeld)
  • Georg Phillipp Telemann – 12 Fantasies
  • George Frederic Handel – Allegro in G Major HWV 407

The performance practices for Rosary sonatas by Biber are not known because no information about this has survived. We know Biber wrote these sontatas to represent the life of Jesus Christ. It is a collection of 15 sonatas for violin and basso continuo. We do not know if all of these sonatas were intended to be performed at one recital or if they would be performed in a series of concerts. They were written in approximately 1670. It should also be mentioned that this is the largest collection of scordatura for the violin. (Scordatura is alternate tuning of the instrument.) Biber used this technique to create different sonorities of the violin to represent the joyous, sorrowful and glorious parts of the life of Jesus Christ. The Passacaglia, for violin alone, is the last movement of Sonata No. 15.

The Twelve Fantasies for violin by Telemann are very approachable for students not yet ready for the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. Their movements are based upon the structure of the Sonata de Chiesa like the Sonatas of Bach, but they are shorter in length. Each work begins with a slow movement, has a second movement which is fast, a third movement which is slow, and a final movement that is fast. Ornamentation is similar to that of the Bach works, as well. Telemann was aware of the Bach works so it is possible he wrote these in this style.

The Allegro in G Major by Handel is one of several single movement works by Handel. This is the only one that is unaccompanied. This can be considered more of a novelty than a work included in the standard repertoire for violin.

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *