Masterclass: Simon Standage on Bach’s Violin Sonata in E major


Early music expert Simon Standage discusses historically informed performance, interpretation and balancing violin and harpsichord in the first two movements of BWV1016

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Bach wrote six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV1014–19, and I first played them such a long time ago that I honestly can’t remember when it was. I do know that I’ve been playing them since at least 1973, when I took up the Baroque violin (the date is written on my music!), both individually and as a set. Perhaps because Bach assembled the pieces himself, the six work well together as a concert programme. Many years ago I performed them in a museum in Oxford, with a harpsichord with a 16-foot stop! I’ve also played them with a pedal harpsichord, which made the E major Sonata’s left-hand octaves easier for the harpsichordist, and with an additional viola da gamba player. All combinations come with their own challenges of timbre and balance.

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