The Adagio in G major
, BWV968 is a transcription of the opening movement of Bach’s Sonata for solo violin in C major, BWV1005. Along with the Sonata in D minor (a transcription of the solo violin Sonata in A minor, BWV1003), it has been passed down to us in a copy made by Altnikol, Bach’s pupil and son-in-law. Another Bach pupil, Agricola, stated in 1775 that Bach often played transcriptions of his works for solo stringed instruments on the clavichord, so this was an accepted practice. Still, the Neue Bach-Ausgabe
claims it not to be authentic, and the name that most frequently appears as the possible author is Bach’s son, Wilhelm Friedemann. Notoriously difficult to play on the violin, these pieces are technically easier on the piano, although the musical demands are equal if not greater. I am told that when Gustav Leonhardt played (or perhaps still plays) it as an encore, he added the words, “To vex violinists!”. Bach (or whoever) omits one bar from the original, but fills in the harmonies with often daring results. Ornaments appear on each beat of the first bar which should be repeated throughout. They are absent from the violin version, but then notes can be more easily sustained on that instrument. Surely whoever made this transcription intended to do the same with the other movements, but either these were never completed or else they have been lost. So we end on the dominant, at peace but expecting something else.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2004