Partita No. 2 in D minor
In this masterclass, Professor Miriam Fried works with student Emilia Sharpe to communicate more of a message to the audience in Bach’s Partita No. 2. Fried encourages the student to identify patterns and groupings in the music and work to bring out the different characteristics of each, particularly through varying the note lengths and letting the music breathe. She also helps the student find natural perpetual motion in the arm and more flexibility in the hand, which helps with resonance and technique. Fried points out the importance of playing through phrases instead of cutting off the last note of any section.
She also discusses the relationship between music and language, and encourages Sharpe to phrase with more inflection to avoid monotony and highlight the most important moments. Fried asks the student to be bold, take ownership of her musical decisions, and have fun playing this music.
Assigning different characters to each rhythmic pattern.
Varying note lengths and time of bow on string to add inflection.
Having natural movement in the arm and hand.
Playing through last notes instead of tapering them.
Finding joy and taking risks in the music.
J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2 was composed between 1717 and 1720 as part of a collection of works for solo violin. Some believe the piece was in memory of his wife, Maria Barbara Bach, who passed away in 1720, although there is no clear evidence for this. The first four movements of the work are Baroque dance types: Allemande, Corrente, Sarabanda, and Gigue. Each of them is in a minor key and requires technical dexterity. However, the piece is most famous for its fifth and final movement, the legendary Chaconne. Nearly the same length as the other four movements combined, it is widely regarded as one of the greatest compositions ever written for violin. The Chaconne consists of more than sixty variations over a repeated bass line, and calls for remarkable expressiveness, intonation, and virtuosity. Performers and scholars have called the Chaconne “one of the greatest achievements of any man in history” and “a triumph of spirit over matter such as even Bach never repeated in a more brilliant manner.”
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this violin masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Miriam Fried’s feedback and comments.
Professor of violin at New England Conservatory in Boston.
Miriam Fried has played with virtually every major orchestra in the United States and Europe and has been a frequent guest with the principal orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as with the Israel Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic, and the Vienna Symphony.
In recent seasons, Ms. Fried’s schedule has included orchestral engagements with such prestigious ensembles as the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, the Czech Philharmonic, and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. In 1993, she premiered a violin concerto written for her by Donald Erb with the Grand Rapids Symphony, and recorded the work for Koss. Ms. Fried’s highly praised New York recitals of the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin were the culmination of three years of international performances.
She was the first violinist of the Mendelssohn String Quartet for ten years and collaborates regularly with her son, pianist Jonathan Biss. Currently, Miriam Fried is a professor at New England Conservatory and is invited to give masterclasses throughout the world. Since 1994 she has been program Director of the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, one of the country’s leading summer programs for young musicians.
Johann Sebastian Bach is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in music history. His incredible creative power, technical mastery, and intellect have made a lasting impression not only on classical music but also on many different modern music genres we know today.
Born in 1685 in Eisenach, Germany, Bach was a member of a very well-known family of musicians. At 18-years-old, he began working in Arnstadt where he accompanied hymns at church. His professional career as a musician would follow in Weimar, where he resided from 1708 to 1717. Here, Bach would deepen his theoretical study of composition and write most of his organ works. Moreover, he composed preludes and fugues that would be part of his collection The Well-Tempered Clavier. After building a considerable reputation in Weimar, Bach moved to Köthen to take a new role as Chapel Master. Writing less religious songs and putting more of a focus on chamber music, his compositions from this time would bring Baroque instrumental music to its pinnacle.
From 1723 until his death in 1750, Bach worked in Leipzig. First, as Thomaskantor at the Thomasschule and later as a private tutor and director of the Collegium Musicum. During this time, Bach worked on creating a repertoire of cantatas for church and revised many of his previous compositions. From 1726 onward, his keyboard works were published. His death in 1750 came to mark the end of the Baroque period and the beginning of Classicism. For many years after his passing, Johann Sebastian Bach’s works were buried with him until they resurfaced many years later and celebrated for their musical ingenuity.