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J. S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo (BWV 1001-1006) are among the most important masterpieces in the literature of violin music. They are included in standard repertoire for serious violin students; they are frequently performed in solo recitals; they are recorded by numerous virtuosi; and they are required in major violin competitions. The vast amount of editions also indicates the importance of the works. In Edlund’s catalogue, one finds as many as seventy-seven editions ranging from Simrock (1802) to Henle (1987)

However, the Solos did not enjoy such a prominent status in Bach’s own time and even in the rest of the eighteenth century. The Solos are believed to have been completed by 1720. The first complete edition did not appear until 1802. The earliest public performance on record took place in 1840 by Ferdinand David. The first recording was made by Joseph Joachim, who played a partial version of the Solos in 1903. The first complete set was recorded by Yehudi Menuhin during 1933-1934. The Solos received little attention during the eighteenth century according to the history of publication and performance. It is often wondered why the Solos did not gain recognition for such a long period of time. Despite much research that was undertaken, no conclusion has been reached due to the lack of evidence. In this respect, this one is no exception. The purpose of this article is to help violin students understand the works more fully by familiarizing the Solos from the angles other than performing techniques in the light of current knowledge.


This work was originally published in American String Teacher, and is posted with the permission of the American String Teacher and the American String Teachers Association.



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