Both the Sonata in D minor, BWV964, and the Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV894, are virtuoso pieces, intended to show off the ability of the performer. They are consequently very effective in recital. Both exist in versions for other instruments, the sonata being Bach’s own transcription of his solo Violin Sonata in A minor, BWV1003, and the prelude and fugue appearing recycled as the outer movements of the Triple Concerto for flute, violin, solo harpsichord and strings, BWV1044. The keyboard arrangement of the sonata no doubt annoys violinists as so many of the horrendous difficulties to be overcome on the violin are easily rendered by two hands. There are many reports handed down of Bach playing his unaccompanied string pieces at the keyboard, so although this transcription again only survives in a copyist’s hand (that of Altnikol, his son-in-law), its authenticity is not really questionable. The polyphonic texture implied in the original is here beautifully realized without great changes to the melodic line. The second movement was admired by Bach’s Hamburg contemporary Mattheson, who praised his ability to construct such a long fugue from so short a subject. It is indeed a tour de force, demanding great concentration and skill (and probably scaring away many a player). The lovely F major andante brings us a moment of complete repose and tenderness. The finale is almost completely identical to the original, with the one line of music being divided between the two hands.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 1995