All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Trio sonata in G major

BWV 1038 performed by Marten Root, Shunske Sato,
Mieneke van der Velden, Benjamin Alard
Paushuize, Utrecht

This trio sonata was written for ‘scordatura’ violin – a violin that has been 'mistuned’. What effect does this alternative tuning have on the piece? Shunske Sato tells us.

Instrumental music for a coffee house

Bach used the collegium musicum for experimenting

When Bach got the opportunity to take over the leadership of the most important collegium musicum in Leipzig, in 1729, he did so without a moment’s hesitation. The weekly concerts by the student music association in the coffee house of Gottfried Zimmermann gave him exactly the artistic elbow room he lacked in his post as cantor. There, for over ten years, Bach presented mainly chamber music to an educated audience, experimenting to his heart’s content with new instrumental genres. He was able to push forward his pupils (and of course his own sons) as soloists, who then got the chance to shine.
With one or two exceptions, there is no record of what exactly was performed at the 500 or so concerts. But the dating of the scores gives reason to believe that many sonatas, concertos and suites were created in this period. The Trio sonata in G major for transverse flute, violin and basso continuo (scores of which exist in Bach’s own hand) was most probably performed at such a coffee house concert. Despite the lack of a name on the score, the four-movement sonata with alternate slow and fast movements is regarded by Bach researchers as an authentic work by the master.

Yet there is something remarkable about the piece. Whereas in this period Bach enthusiastically highlighted the harpsichord as a solo instrument, this sonata has an ordinary continuo part. What’s more, the part displays great similarities to that of the Violin sonata, BWV 1021. As the authenticity of that piece has been ascertained, while its melody line is totally different to that of BWV 1038, one might conclude that this concerns an exercise in composition for a pupil. This assumption is further confirmed by the fact that the violin part of 1038 has to be performed ‘scordatura’, or with some strings tuned differently. The advantage of this tuning is not obvious in this piece. However, the different tuning does affect the sound, as violinist Shunske Sato explains in the interview.


BWV
1038

Title
Trio sonata in G major

genre
chamber music

year
1732-35

city
Leipzig

special notes
The violin sonata in G major, BWV 1021, from ca. 1720, has a similar bass part. The violin sonata in F major, BWV 1022, is an arrangement of BWV 1038 from the period 1732-35 and has a solo part for harpsichord.

Cast & Crew

release date 24 July 2015
recording date 1 March 2015
Location Paushuize, Utrecht
Traverso Marten Root
Violin Shunske Sato
Viola da gamba Mieneke van der Velden
Harpsichord Benjamin Alard
Film director and editor Lucas van Woerkum
MUSIC RECORDING PRODUCERS Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
CAMERA Robert M. Berger
CAMERA ASSISTaNTS Stef van Wijk, Uriel Matahelumual
Grip Jeroen de Haan, Thijme de Zoet
GAFFER Zen Bloot
best boy Thomas Jeninga
CONCERT production Erik van Lith
Producer Jessie Verbrugh
interview Onno van Ameijde
Acknowledgements Lex Martens and Provincie Utrecht

Vocal Texts

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Translation

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