Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas For Solo Violin

Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas For Solo Violin

I played the violin on a regular basis twenty years ago and have hardly touched it since, but it has remained a lifelong love affair. The feel of a violin in one’s hands is a tender experience to the lover of its sound. The curves of the back and sides are hard to the touch yet soothing to the soul as you run your hand along its neck and fingerboard. I was mesmerized by the song of the violin from an early age but was too full of fear as a child to try and harness its power.

A quote by Deanna Raybourn aims to convey this irresistible call.

“From the first note I knew it was different from anything I had ever heard…. It began simply, but with an arresting phrase, so simple, but eloquent as a human voice. It spoke, beckoning gently as it unwound, rising and tensing. It spiraled upward, the tension growing with each repeat of the phrasing, and yet somehow it grew more abandoned, wilder with each note. His eyes remained closed as his fingers flew over the strings, spilling forth surely more notes than were possible from a single violin. For one mad moment I actually thought there were more of them, an entire orchestra of violins spilling out of this one instrument. I had never heard anything like it–it was poetry and seduction and light and shadow and every other contradiction I could think of. It seemed impossible to breathe while listening to that music, and yet all I was doing was breathing, quite heavily. The music itself had become as palpable a presence in that room as another person would have been–and its presence was something out of myth.” 
― Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Grave

In the middle of the night, I would occasionally dream of playing the Ciacconna from Bach’s Partita number 2. To me, this was the pinnacle of the violin repertoire and a direct pathway to feeling the divine. This monumental piece encompasses all of life’s emotions in one 15 minute masterpiece. Bliss and joy, sorrow and regret, rage and sorrow all wrapped up in the most sensuous and fleeting moments until the last note is bowed.

In my humble opinion, the violinist that has captured all of the emotion of this amazing work has been Viktoria Mullova. Maybe it is because the first time I heard the Chaconne was by Ms. Mullova when I was a freshman in college. I listened to it many, many times while on the bus commuting in Boston and would have to hold back my tears (especially at minute 7:00)

I also discovered a great piece from the show ONBEING about this gorgeous work with some of the background history on Bach’s writing of the composition.

So my recommendation for a spiritual practice is to dim the lights, sit comfortably in your favorite chair and play this magnificent piece. See how it touches you and how you feel afterward. I’ve never been disappointed by the Chaconne.

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