The Partita No 2 in D minor (BWV1004) is the best known of Bach’s six works for unaccompanied violin on account of its brilliantly sustained, imaginatively varied and architecturally magnificent Ciaccona. Like the B minor Partita, it begins with an Allemanda which on first acquaintance may seem a little lacking in geniality. This movement, along with the Corrente which follows it and the subsequent Giga, progresses in a single continuous melodic line, in which harmony provided by multiple stopping is almost entirely absent. The Sarabanda, by contrast, with its richly chordal passages gives the impression, to some extent illusory, of greater complexity. The mighty concluding Ciaccona, a 257-bar ‘morceau célèbre’ and veritable Goliath of the violin repertory, is built on a noble and declamatory theme upon which Bach develops sixty-four continuous variations, exploring a dazzlingly intricate range of harmonic possibilities. This is a movement of unfathomable subtlety, astounding virtuosity and great expressive and architectural beauty. Bach seems to have set himself incalculable challenges, sustaining his Chaconne with a major-key section, rhythmic diversity and a kaleidoscope of technical devices both pushing the boundaries of, and summarizing, we might say, the baroque violinist’s art.
from notes by Nicholas Anderson © 2009