The music on this recording was originally presented as a solo recital in Toronto in April of 2011 . The idea to perform a recital centred around the Bach E Major Partita and to partner it with other pieces which used the Bach as a source of inspiration had been percolating in my brain for quite a while. For several
years I have found myself performing the E Major Partita frequently, and while it is true that it (and the other pieces from the Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas by Bach) forms a cornerstone of violin repertoire, this particular Partita came up more than any other piece by Bach in my professional life. In fact, a re-orchestration of the Preludio of the Partita is part of Tafelmusik’s Galileo Project - an innovative programme conceived by Alison Mackay to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s development and use of the astronomical telescope. The Galileo Project continues to tour the world, and I have had the honour of performing the solo in this movement with Tafelmusik many times. My ongoing personal relationship with this Preludio was the genesis of my idea to present a recital and then to record music inspired by the E Major Partita. I decided to present the E Major Partita with two other contrasting works: One from the 20th century (Ysaÿe), and one from the 21st century (Oesterle).
Partita in E Major (BWV 1006) by J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
Bach’s autograph of “Sei Solo –a violino senza Basso accompagnato” dates from 1720, which allows us to
date the composition of these works as 1720 or earlier. At that time Bach was employed as Kapellmeister for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, who was a Calvinist (and so did not need Bach to produce a lot of elaborate sacred music for church services.) Many of Bach’s secular compositions date from this time: The Brandenburg Concertos, the ‘Cello Suites, and the Orchestral Suites were all composed while Bach was employed at Köthen. As a set, the 6 Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin showcase what 18th century musicians believed to be the violin’s complete technical capabilities. It is not known if they were written for a specific occasion or performer. It is possible that Bach played them himself, since we know from anecdotal evidence that he was a fine violinist. His son, C. P. E. Bach, said of his father: “In his youth, and until the approach of old age, he played the violin cleanly and powerfully.” The set of pieces was first published by Nicolas Simrock in 1802, and since then they have become a pillar of the violin repertoire. Generations of violinists continue to hone their skills through the study and performance of these works.
Stand Still, 2010
From Michael Oesterle
My concept for Stand Still is that the four movements should not, in a traditional sense, be four sections
with contrasting expressions. Instead, I composed the movements to appear quite similar in nature. They
are constructed using a small set of building blocks of musical material which appear in different contexts
throughout the piece, seen from changing perspectives, trying to establish themselves through repetition and variation. As these similar sounding ideas reappear in each movement, they reassess their meaning and usefulness to the larger picture. The overall landscape of this piece is filled with recognizable idiomatic violin gestures: Hinting at expressions familiar to the Baroque, Folkloric, or Romantic traditions. The resulting twists and turns and dance-like motions appear light hearted and playful, yet they consistently reveal an aspiration for an introvert sensibility in that the structure doesn’t allow for the gestures to spiral out of control. Throughout the piece, the open strings of the violin resonate an harmonic image which acts like a blank canvas. The open A and E strings emerge as a reliable starting point for all the musical gestures and ideas, resonating as a stable core around which changing expressions pivot and play. In the last movement the open E string of the violin attempts to take over, the blank canvas wanting to shed itself of paint, returning to a state where expressions stand still. Stand Still was commissioned by Aisslinn Nosky whose distinct voice and refinement of sound and expression inspired this piece. Funding for this commission was provided by The Canada Council for the Arts.
Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 27, No. 2 “Obsession” by Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Belgian violinist, composer, and conductor Eugène Ysaÿe was an extremely influential figure in 20th century violin playing. As a travelling virtuoso, he performed recitals and concertos with orchestras
all over the world. He was also the teacher of a very prestigious class of violin students at the Brussels Conservatory. His style of playing influenced the next generation of violinists (Szigeti, Kreisler, Flesch, Enescu, Thibaud) and at the turn of the century, many regarded Ysaÿe as the supreme violin virtuoso of his day. Ysaÿe wrote 6 sonatas for solo violin, each one dedicated to a different violinist. Sonata No.2 is dedicated to his close friend, French virtuoso Jacques Thibaud. The first movement Obsession; Prelude quotes the Prelude from Bach’s E Major Partita directly. The music bounces around fragments of the Bach, and violent virtuosic passages until ultimately the Dies Irae plainchant (a Latin hymn on the Day of Judgement sung in the Requiem Mass) is introduced ominously into the mix. The poignant slow movement (Malinconia) features dotted rhythms characteristic of some Baroque dance forms as well as intense chromatic harmonies. The overall feeling reminds me very much of the Loure from the Bach Partita. The Danse des Ombres (Dance of Shadows)-Sarabande is a movement of theme and variations. The Sarabande theme is again based on the Dies Irae. In the final movement Les Furies (The Furies,) the Dies Irae theme returns and takes over, bringing the Sonata to a dramatic close.