Precedents To J.S. Bach’s Fugues for Solo Violin from the Sonatas, BWV 1001, 1003, AND 1005
Honorable Mention, Friends of Fondren Library Undergraduate Research Awards, 2010
Johann Sebastian’s fugues for unaccompanied violin from the Sonatas, BWV 1001, 1003, and 1005, play a central role in the violin repertoire. Bach’s conceptualization of the fugues for solo violin, an instrument that would appear to preclude this sort of contrapuntal writing, is unique in the Baroque repertoire. This paper identifies precedents to Bach’s creation of fugues for solo violin. While Bach’s unprecedented and unmatched skill in the fugal genre provided for the creation of the violin fugues, he drew ideas from existing compositions and techniques. Specifically, he adopts the formal adaptation of the sonata da chiesa to the solo violin sonata which occurred in the Italian school of violin playing, notably Arcangelo Corelli. Furthermore, he builds upon early experimentation with the unaccompanied violin sonata and the development of virtuoso techniques within the German school of virtuoso violin playing of the late seventeenth century. Bach’s fugues for solo violin, therefore, represent a synthesis of the Italian and German traditions of violin playing.