Our July 2021 issue features analysis of Bach’s solo violin sonatas - have a read of what these top five string players have to say about solo Bach
Yo-Yo Ma: ’I think Bach has a couple of personalities. I think he observes nature and human nature with great objectivity, but at the same time, with the greatest compassion and he doesn’t put himself at the centre of the narrative. He really understands your pain, my pain, everybody’s pain. I think that makes it particularly relevant because he also does it at arm’s length. And so I think he gives great comfort to so many people, including me’
Lisa Batiashvili: ’Everyone needs to find their own approach and language in Bach’s music. I’m trying not to be too dogmatic or theoretical about it, but I think one needs to play with imagination and hear the sound one wants to produce. And it is important that each note speaks, and that the sound remains flexible and transparent’
Jean-Guihen Queryas: ’The golden rule for double-stops in Bach is that they involve a slight arpeggio, releasing the lower notes before the upper ones. Think of them as a group of separate voices. Imagine you are in a good chamber music group: the bass voice doesn’t hold the notes the same way as the soprano – it has to release earlier. Every chord should have a pulse, which gives the music groove. If you emphasise all the notes equally you spread your pulse and the listener doesn’t know where they are. The pulse is the moment you reach the upper note and this is where the sound should reach its full intensity. The bass note is much lighter – it’s a preparation for going into the sound as you go up in the chord’
Hilary Hahn: ’I always had teachers who were really believers that you should do solo Bach every day. I think the first Bach I learned, I learned by ear. My father used to take some some piano lessons, he was learning one of the two-part inventions, and it didn’t occur to me that a person wrote it. It was just music. I was very little and I still remember it very, very clearly.
Nathan Milstein: ‘I just try not to spoil it’