J. S. Bach, Chaconne

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004
V. Ciaconna
trans. Nathan Cornelius

Nathan Cornelius, guitar

Although J. S. Bach knew of no instrument equivalent to the modern guitar, his music for solo violin, cello, and lute occupies an important place in the guitar repertoire. The monumental Ciaconna (or Chaconne) from the second Violin Partita has been a warhorse of that repertoire since Andrés Segovia premiered his famous version of it in the 1930s. As it evolved from a robust South American rhythm, the French chaconne emerged as a stately dance in triple meter, based on a repeating chord progression. While all of Bach’s solo partitas consist of pieces in traditional dance forms, this is by far the longest movement in any of them. Bach gradually builds tension and creates contrast by varying the rhythm, melodic contour, or articulation with each repetition of the chaconne progression, creating amazingly rich counterpoint out of the limited resources of the solo violin (or guitar).

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