CONOR JACOBSON April 25, 2021 • 4:00 p.m. Our Saviour's Lutheran Church
It was my intention to present the entire Six Sonatas and Partitas to you, the ARTCORE audience, during, and in celebration of, their tricentennial year, 2020. Life, however, has made it clear that it has rather definite plans to the contrary, so instead of March and November 2020, we have Part 1 in November and Part 2 in April 2021! While we are all adjusting to this strange holding pattern in which we now find ourselves, I find myself also contemplating the relative fragility (dare I say futility) of our own little plans. It brings to mind the wisdom of that old saying; the point of a journey being not so much in reaching the destination, but in the experiences along the way. I can't help but draw an ironic parallel between my little plan for these pieces and the curious manner in which they originally found their way to the stage.
At the time of their composition, the Six Sonatas and Partitas would have been known to those in Bach's immediate circle but, his intentions for the pieces being unclear, were not published during his lifetime. Possession of the autograph manuscript, through the distribution of his estate, was given to one of Bach's children and then, mostly forgotten. The compositions instead became known to violinists only through disseminated copies from the autograph, or copies of copies, (often fragmented and all with varying degrees of inaccuracy), and were viewed mainly as valuable pedagogical tools. Indeed, there is little evidence to suggest that these works were being played in concert, except, perhaps, in fragments, until well into the nineteenth century! It was not until Joseph Joachim, who would become one of their earliest and greatest champions, had become acquainted with the complete autograph manuscript (thereby, playing no small part in its being rescued from obscurity), and recognizing the artistic value and potential appeal to an audience, adopted them, in whole, as a staple in his repertoire, that they secured their rightful place on the concert stage. He can even be heard playing selections from these works on recordings made in 1903!
So, it seems that, from the very beginning, these little gems have taken the "scenic route" on their journey from writing desk to podium; from that most singular and magnificent mind of Bach, through the (often frustrated) fingers of appreciative (and always humbled) violinists, into the ears and hearts of audiences, such as yourselves.
I am eager to share these great works with you, but, as we have all learned; we don't have near as much control over how and when these things happen as we'd like to think. In the end, does that really matter? Bach's Six Sonatas and Partitas began their journey as teaching tools and, whether played in lessons or concerts, they are, first and foremost, just that. One of the many fundamental lessons they have to teach is that of patience being its own reward!