Bach's G Minor Solo Sonata
I mentioned in my last blog post that I wanted to share my experiences and observations about my repertoire for my upcoming unaccompanied violin recital. This post will focus on the piece that I have already been working on for some time: Bach’s g minor solo sonata.
My history with this piece began about seven years ago. I first learned the outer movements for my undergraduate college auditions and then filled in the inner two movements during the sophomore year of my undergrad. I remember my teacher in high school once making a comment to the effect that my Bach would become better when I was older and had more life experience. My seventeen-year-old self looked forward to the day when I would get to study that sonata again and understand it with more clarity and play it with more depth. Last May, I got the opportunity to study the entire sonata again in preparation for my degree recital.
Ever since I started learning the solo Bach repertoire, I have loved playing it. This music, to me, is so satisfying- emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. When one plays this repertoire, it is incredibly important that the player takes the time to examine Bach’s life and passions because they influence our understanding of these pieces. We need to know who he was, what he did, and what he loved because these things provide clarity and inform the musical direction of the pieces. Adding these details to our understanding of how this music was played in the 18th century allows the performer to craft really compelling performances. As a performer, I take all of this knowledge and then filter it through my own life experiences. I ask myself how I can relate to what Bach expressed through his music, what emotions I feel, and then play those emotions.
My goal in playing music is to find ways to relate to people, whether that is the relationship between myself and the composer, myself and the music, or myself and the audience (or all of those relationships at once!). This requires a lot of vulnerability from the performer and a willingness to be emotionally exposed. I’m constantly seeking to be more comfortable with the discomfort that comes from feeling so exposed. In the Bach solo sonata, this vulnerability is heightened because the performer is alone on stage. As I present Bach’s g minor sonata on this program, I will be focusing on conveying a greater emotional intimacy with each performance.
In the music world, the beginning of the year is the time for planning summer activities. There are a lot of opportunities for musicians to continue their studies, work with different teachers, and gain valuable performance experiences over the summer. Music festivals typically focus on one aspect of playing whether it's solo repertoire, chamber music, or orchestral repertoire. Typically, students and their teachers discuss what type of festival and performance activities would be most beneficial for the student.
While I'm working on festival applications, I've also decided to put together a solo violin program that I can perform multiple times over the summer. Currently, I plan on giving this recital in both Oklahoma and Iowa, but I am exploring the possibility of giving the recital in other places as well. This will be my first time presenting an entirely unaccompanied program and I am eager to display the versatility of the violin. As a result, the program will feature works that showcase various elements of solo violin playing. For this program, I have selected the Bach g minor solo sonata, the Prokofiev solo sonata, and a currently untitled and as of yet non-existent piece that I'm commissioning from my friend and colleague at OU, Jonathan Annis. As I begin to work on this program (after my master's recital on March 1st!), I'll share more about my experiences with each piece and any observations about them.