The sonatas and partitas for solo violin (BWV 1001–1006) are a set of six works composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. They are sometimes referred to in English as the sonatas and partias for solo violin in accordance with Bach's headings in the autograph manuscript: "Partia" (plural "Partien") was commonly used in German-speaking regions during Bach's time, whereas the Italian "partita" was introduced to this set in the 1879 Bach Gesellschaft edition, having become standard by that time. The set consists of three sonatas da chiesa in four movements and three partitas (or partias) in dance-form movements.
The set was completed by 1720, but was only published in 1802 by Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn. Even after publication, it was largely ignored until the celebrated violinist Joseph Joachim started performing these works. Today, Bach's Sonatas and Partitas are an essential part of the violin repertoire, and they are frequently performed and recorded.
In June 1995, a virtually unknown group of Japanese musicians embarked on the monumental task of recording the complete sacred cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach. Almost eighteen years later, on 23rd February 2013, the Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki – by then household names in the international music world – reached their goal, as they finished recording the 55th disc in a series which in the meantime had met with overwhelming acclaim worldwide. Made in conjunction with the final cantata recording, this film commemorates the occasion. Besides filmed performances of the three last cantatas – Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV191, Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, BWV69 and Freue dich, erlöste Schar, BWV30 – the film includes interviews with Masaaki Suzuki and key members of Bach Collegium Japan as well as behind-the-scenes footage.
"With this work a new world opened up to us", wrote the actor singer Eduard Devrient, recalling the momentous revival of the St. Matthew Passion some forty years earlier in 1829, when he was joined by Mendelssohn, then barely out of his teens yet fully able and willing to shoulder the burden of a stupendous musical challenge. Bach's masterpiece was already one hundred years old but could look back on little more than one or two unsatisfactory performances, scant recognition, and not a note in print.
Three of Bach's four cantatas for solo alto were written within the period of a few months in the year, 1726. It is surmised by musicologists that they were written for a specific singer, for they are very difficult, and not easily sung by the moderately skilled personage. There are strenuous technical demands on the vocal and expressive qualities of the singer, who must be an accomplished coloratura capable of expressive cantible singing as well as possessing accurate intonation. A female or a castrato voice were out of the question, but a high falsetto was not.
The Magnificat is one of Bach's most justly celebrated works. But it is in fact the composer's own adaptation of an earlier composition. Similarly, his masses were based on movements from his cantatas. Here is a chance to observe this fascinating process, accompanied by related organ pieces…