19 minutes with JSB

I’m not a trained classical guitarist, but since childhood I’ve loved messing around with Bach. I play material in whatever way feels right, without worrying about stylistic matters. The Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major (BWV 1005) has been a part of my life for 15 years or so. I find that playing through all four movements puts my mind and body in order, and is also an inexhaustible lesson in composition. The hypnotic mutations of the Adagio lead directly to the Fugue, the centerpiece which is the longest fugue written by Bach for any instrument. The largo is made for slow lengthy strokes of the bow, so it seems like a good challenge to try to get some lyricism going with the pick. The Allegro Assai is a joyful melody but a brutal picking workout, especially when adding accents that move across the figures. Specifically, some of the things I focus on while playing this piece are:

  • Adagio (Classical Guitar, fingers): vibration, sonority, dynamics, breath, waves, mutation.
  • Fugue (Classical Guitar, fingers): melody, counterpoint, independence, balance, cadence, gesture, momentum, drama, storytelling.
  • Largo (Electric Guitar, pick): delicacy, touch, clarity, silence, vulnerability, melodic contour and continuity.
  • Allegro Assai (Electric Guitar, pick): picking gymnastics, skips and leaps, articulation, accents, rhythmic precision, velocity, fluidity.

As an an additional challenge, on this recording all movements are played at 40 beats per minute, with these relationships:

  • Adagio: quarter note = 40
  • Fugue: one bar of 4/4 = 40
  • Largo: eighth note = 40
  • Allegro Assai: one bar of 12/8 = 40

This clocks in at 19 minutes and 19 seconds, with the first two movements at fairly normal speeds, the third very slow, and the fourth very fast. When played in this way, I’ve found that the Sonata has a few lessons about rhythm as well (especially the last movement, which is played here in a triplet feel).

Recorded using Gibson 1963 CO Classical and 1978 ES175 CC guitars, a stereo pair of Rode NT5 microphones, and a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier, June 2017.