It’s no secret that many a bluegrass instrumentalist has found themselves fascinated by the music of J.S. Bach. The symmetry, clarity of form, and contrapuntal accents of his compositions have their counterparts in bluegrass and modern string music, though our harmony is typically a bit more traditional.
There have been many banjo or guitar arrangements of Bach pieces, but as so much of his music was written for violin, bluegrass fiddlers and mandolinists are especially drawn to learn it. The popular mandolin web site, Mandolin Café, even has a forum section set aside for discussion of Bach’s music on the instrument.
We’ve written previously about Chris Thile’s fondness for Bach, including a video of Punch Brothers playing the 3rd movement from Brandenburg Concerto #3 at Telluride last year, transcribed for a bluegrass band with two fiddles. He was also featured in the independent film, Bach & Friends, as was Béla Fleck, and Chris’ next solo project from Nonesuch will be a full album of solo Bach pieces for mandolin.
Bach Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1 contains three complete pieces: Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001, Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002, and Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003. It is scheduled for an August 6 release, but pre-orders are available now, which entitle the purchaers to an instant download of one track, Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001: II. Fuga: Allegro.
A complete track listing follows:
Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001
- I. Adagio
- II. Fuga: Allegro
- III. Siciliana
- IV. Presto
Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002
- I. Allemanda
- II. Double
- III. Corrente
- IV. Double: Presto
- V. Sarabande
- VI. Double
- VII. Tempo di Borea
- VIII. Double
Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003
- I. Grave
- II. Fuga
- III. Andante
- IV. Allegro
All were written for solo violin during the early part of the 18th century though, like much of Bach’s music, remained largely unknown for some time after his death. Today, these pieces form part of the standard repertoire for serious students of violin.
Perhaps following Thile’s lead, they will become more common for mandolinists as well.