Bach - Sonatas and partitas for solo violin

Six works by J. S. Bach which set the standard for solo violin pieces until the present day.

Joseph Joachim violinist

J. S. Bach ’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin are a set of six which the composer began around 1703 and completed in 1720, but they were only published together more than 50 years after Bach’s death.

The sonatas each consist of four movements, in the typical slow-fast-slow-fast structure. The partitas, however, are more unorthodox. They make use of the usual baroque dance mixture of Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue, but Bach added new elements to provide variety.

It’s not known whether these works were performed during Bach's lifetime or, if they were, who the performer was. It’s possible that the composer himself gave the first performance. According to his son, “in his youth, and until the approach of old age, he played the violin cleanly and powerfully”.

Even after publication in 1802, the pieces were largely ignored until the legendary violinist Joachim (pictured) started performing them. Today, they are an essential part of the violin repertoire, frequently performed and recorded. Like so many of Bach’s pieces, they have become archetypes for solo violin pieces by other composers including in the 20th century, Béla Bartók.

Explore the beauty of this music, and Bach's own manuscript in these videos from the Scrolling Bach Project

Take a look at Bach's Sonata No.1 for Solo Violin

And his Partita No.2, with its epic Chaconne...  

Bach