JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Born Eisenach, March 21, 1685; died Leipzig, July 28, 1750
Partita in C minor, BWV 997
Composed c. 1740; 20 minutes
Johann Sebastian Bach's lute suites BWV 995, 996, 997 and 1006a are among the most musically rewarding baroque works in the classical guitar repertoire. This edition of BWV 997 was prepared by Bach scholar and keyboard artist Rosalyn Tureck in collaboration with Sharon Isbin, who provided the fingerings; it was published by G. Schirmer, Inc. It is being performed tonight on the 100th anniversary of Ms. Tureck’s birth, December 14, 1913.
The guitar, a close relative of the lute, is well suited to the delicate textures and part-writing of these suites. Since Bach was an avid practitioner of transcription, performing these works on the guitar is ideologically compatible with the composer's own tradition of arranging music. Two of these suites, in fact, are Bach's arrangements of works he composed c.1720 in Cothen, Germany: BWV 995 first appeared as the unaccompanied cello suite BWV 1011, and his violin partita BWV 1006 was the forerunner of suite BWV 1006a. Although these four works are commonly classified as lute suites, Bach's intended instrument of performance is clear only in title page of BWV 995.
The earliest surviving manuscript of BWV 997 was written between 1738 and 1740 by Bach's student Johann Friedrich Agricola; its title page, added later by C.P.E. Bach, specifies “Clavier,” thus suggesting the harpsichord as an instrument of performance. Other 18th-century manuscripts of this suite include Clavicembalo, Cembalo Solo and Klavier in their titles. A version of BWV 997 in French lute tablature by Johann Christian Weyrauch (1694–1771) omits that suite’s magnificently intricate Fugue and brilliant Double, perhaps because of challenges of tuning and register.
In editing this suite for guitar, Rosalyn Tureck and I have chosen to explore the instrument's unique and varied resources in ways which effectively express the structural and stylistic integrity of Bach’s music. Our goal has not been to imitate another instrument, such as the lute or harpsichord, given the differences of technique, attack, resonance, and dynamics.
Flexibility is imperative in transcription, as Bach demonstrated abundantly in his own arrangements. In this edition, for example, I sometimes finger a trill on one string, using left hand slurs as a lutenist would. In other instances, I trill “cross-string,” on two strings with the right hand, articulating each note, thereby creating a legato similar to the undampened resonance of a harpsichord, coupled with the dynamic flexibility of a piano. These two techniques of trilling produce very different textures, and their application, in appropriate contexts, increases the possibilities of musical expression.
Similarly, cross-string fingerings, combined with the natural full- bodied resonance of the modern day guitar, can be used in passagework to recall the cascading, overlapping sonorities of the lute, harpsichord and baroque guitar. The clarity and vibrancy that these fingerings produce help to create fluid passagework and legato phrasing; they also reinforce contrapuntal textures and underscore structural concepts of phrasing.
In this edition, musical structure, manuscript notations and baroque performance practice inform all decisions regarding articulation, embellishment, dynamics, tempo rhythm and phrasing. Original embellishment markings have been observed, and, in accordance with the practices of the time, new embellishments have been added and are varied in section repeats.
© 2013 Sharon Isbin
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