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Violin Lessons: Bach - G Fugue

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The fugue from Bach's G minor solo sonata
is a wonderful piece.
It's pretty compact but it packs a lot of
challenges into that [LAUGH] short length.
So, let's talk about what you're up
against.
What you have the opportunity to study.
Remember that a fugue starts with a
subject always and
then there are repetitions of that subject
in different keys and different voices.
And so the most important part of playing
any fugue is the ability
to highlight the subject no matter what
voice it appears.
And the subject of this fugue as most
fugue subjects are, is pretty simple.
[MUSIC]
That's the subject.
So your challenge is even when it's
disguised,
even when it's harmonized with other
voices, other notes.
That you're able to communicate to the
listener, the presence of that subject.
So this fugue should not really be
attempted until
you've studied something like the.
So if you look at the lesson there it is
all about three and four note chords.
How to play them and how to highlight
different voices.
You can remember from that lesson that
when you have a three note chord,
you can play all three notes at once by
aiming for the middle string.
So, if I have [SOUND] D, A and E strings
together.
And I wanna play all three at once, I'm
gonna aim for the middle string,
the A string.
And just sustain both speed and pressure.
[SOUND] That way, I can play all three
strings at once.
And from there, it's completely up to me
which one string or
which two strings I want to end on.
And that's very important for
this movement because if you're only ever
able to play a cord by rolling it.
[SOUND] And ending on the top voice or the
top two voices.
[SOUND] You're very limited in what you
can show because sometimes
Bach in this movement will write the
subject in the lowest voice.
And so you have to be able to highlight
that lowest voice.
So, just to make it clear if I have, let's
take the first
chord of don't number one, which is
[SOUND] 223.
I can play all three notes at once.
[SOUND] I can highlight the top voice by
ending on it.
[SOUND] Top two voices [SOUND] or even the
low voice.
My bow never has to leave the D string.
[SOUND] The sound on that is a little I'm
making a point,
I'm really trying to sustain the three
notes.
In practice and in this boxed Vube,
you don't really wanna try to sustain free
notes usually quite as long as that.
Because sometimes the sound quality were,
will suffer.
But if you're aware of the concepts then
you'll be
able to beautifully highlight the voices.
So let's look at the first six bars.
[MUSIC]
That's the first voice.
The second voice.
[MUSIC]
So, I'm making the lower voice last
a little bit longer than the top voice.
[MUSIC]
That's a technique I'm
gonna to use through the whole movement.
When I wanna highlight a voice,
I make it slightly longer than its
accompanying voice.
Now the third voice comes in.
[MUSIC]
Same thing and here that feels natural to
do because as violinists we're used to
sustaining the top note of the chord.
So that one already feels more natural.
If you'll look ahead the pass,
there are several passages in this
movement of just sixteenth notes.
And these are a bit of a breather really
from the, the strict, the contrapuntal,
the fugue writing.
And so it's a nice it's a nice opportunity
to show
some shapes and to show a, a freer sound
[MUSIC]
rather than keeping it so formal.
[MUSIC]
Here, because there's only one note at
a time, you have such freedom to make
shapes,
so you use that freedom [LAUGH] and give
it some interest.
This movement is so much fun because of
where all the different voices appear,
so if you look at bar 14 we have a very
high entrance all by itself.
[MUSIC]
So use a very
different sound there.
[MUSIC]
Here, where I have, on the top note,
a long, top voice, a long note.
The bottom voice short notes, I don't
wanna play separate bows.
[SOUND] Because then that's gonna break up
the top note.
So to make the bottom note sound like
shorter eighths.
[SOUND] I come off of the A string and
then that.
[SOUND] That makes it sound.
[SOUND] As it should.
In bar 18 here's a little passage where
I'd like you to
differentiate the two voices by playing
them with different lengths.
So you have
[MUSIC].
So here, I've made the top voice shorter
the bottom voice longer.
You could do it the other way around but
it's nice to show a little bit of
difference there.
Bar 21 is a great,
I think that's a nice opportunity to play
three notes at once there.
So rather than simply [SOUND].
I think it's nice to have more the choir
sound.
[MUSIC]
And make sure to end on the middle string,
the A string because that's the one that's
playing the subject.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC].
If you look, skip ahead now to 35, here's
a passage that Bach just wrote as,
chords basically, with one voice or two
voices moving.
So it's completely up to you, as to how
you'd like to bring those out,
it would be a little boring just to play
it as written.
[MUSIC].
So, everybody does it a little bit
differently,
similar to how you would do it in the
Chaconne by Bach.
The choice I make here is.
[MUSIC].
So that's one way to do it, you could also
play three notes in a bow.
[MUSIC].
Or,
[MUSIC].
You really, you have a bunch of options.
Do something that builds up so that as you
go into 39, 40,
41, it sounds more and more intense.
In general in this movement, the more
voices you see written,
the more sound you can make, the, the
fuller it's intended to sound.
So, at the very beginning, you start with
one voice, then there's two,
then there's three.
And that's, that's great for
the beginning of the movement because you
need somewhere to go.
So if you look at 52 when you end the 16th
passage,
you've got three and four voices for the
most part there.
So that's a good clue to end the 16th
passage with a high dynamic.
[MUSIC].
Same with 58, 59 so
save your highest sound for those moments.
55, if you'll look there, that's the first
time that you're going that,
that the subject ends in major.
[MUSIC].
Very sunny, so have a nice expressive
sound there.
And 61 is also a great place to play
three,
three voices, three notes at once, as if
it were a choir.
[MUSIC].
As smooth as possible.
Look ahead to bar 69, here we have what's
called a pedal point.
And it's called that because in an organ
piece, and Bach certainly wrote tons for
the organ, in an organ piece this would be
a point usually near the end.
Where, the organist just gets to step on a
big pedal and then a huge bass note
rings out and it stays, and everything
else happens over top of that bass note.
We don't have pedals, [LAUGH] that would
be cool if we did.
So you have to simulate that by letting
your open D
[SOUND] ring out as the pedal note.
So do whatever you can to keep that D
string open and ringing.
[MUSIC].
And this D by the way is the five of G's,
and this movement is in G minor,
so this is your five.
That's the most common note for a pedal
point.
Bar 83, here we've got consistently three
and
even four voices, this is really the, the
climax of the movement.
So you can sustain these notes but in the
beginning,
the subject is in the bottom, so that's,
that can be tricky to, to pull off.
[MUSIC].
It's not possible to, really to play four
notes cleanly at once, so
just hang on the bottom note a little bit
longer.
[MUSIC].
Then you can draw people's ear to the
bottom.
Finally in 87 we have a pedal point on the
tonic, the G.
[MUSIC].
And I think it's fine to be free with the
rhythm here to move it ahead a little bit.
This is, people have been waiting long
enough, this is,
finally you get to let it go, you're in
the key of G minor.
And, the very last bar has a tricky
rhythm, and
it's great if you can play it as it's
written.
[MUSIC].
Not to draw it out, like some people do.
[MUSIC].
Or to, to change the rhythm.
It's great as it is, it's a great dramatic
ending to a very dramatic and
difficult movement, so have fun with this
fugue.
[MUSIC]