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Bach Series

Jonas Zschenderlein Baroque Violin

BACH Nº 21
Jonas Zschenderlein performs the Siciliana & Presto from JS Bach's Sonata No. 1 in G minor for solo violin, BWV 1001

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PROGRAM NOTES

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

SONATA NO. 1 IN G MINOR, BWV 1001
Siciliana & Presto

The modern world is greatly indebted to the mathematical prowess of our ancestors and their curious minds, responsible for uncovering so many of our universe’s hidden truths and the fundamental puzzles still being worked on today. But if mathematics is one of, if not the most powerful tool of humanity for universal understanding and communication (where the study of measurements, numbers, and space results in profound and often unexpected insights), then music is surely the supreme expression of emotion, the unknowable, and what many call the divine.

Johann Sebastian Bach is a deserving member of this erudite elite. In 1747 during the later stages of his life, he became an active member of a small academy called Correspondirende Societät der Musicalischen Wissenschaften (Correspondence Society of Musical Sciences), a society dedicated to the connections between science and music across fields such as theology, mathematics, medicine and ethnomusicology. Bach’s own contributions were in the form of several of his most important late works: The Musical Offering, Canonic Variations on ‘Von Himmel Hoch’, and The Art of Fugue, to name a few.

The extensive study of Bach’s music has provided us with essential examples and guidelines for interpreting the language of 18th century music. Understanding this language unlocks a greater comprehension of the Baroque world view, and Bach’s probing mind was more capable than any before or after at expressing and balancing what was known as Affektenlehre (the Doctrine of the Affections) and Figurenlehre (the Doctrine of Figures). In other terms, Bach’s music masterfully exploits the rhythm and harmony observable in the structure of our universe to both evoke and describe the hidden, internal torment of emotions familiar to each and every human being. But how does the music of a man who died almost 300 years ago, who worked and lived his entire life in just a tiny part of the world, excite our emotions, our curiosity, and speak so effortlessly and fundamentally of love, death, grief, joy and life?

One important tool often used by Bach in his music has been expertly described by German musicologist Helga Thöne, whose research is significant among the popular academic interpretations of JS Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. She argues that a religious structure underpins these works relating to the liturgical calendar and proposes that the sonatas and partitas are not just textless instrumental compositions, but rather music composed using a complex language concealed behind voicing and numbers. It is a language steeped in quotations from well-known chorales and rhetorical music figures from Bach’s own time. Indeed, we can even observe that Bach followed his preferred Gematria method through the number of pages used in his autograph manuscript (41), a number equal to the sum of Bach’s name as written by the composer above the first sonata: J. S. Bach (9+18+14 = 41).

Gematria – a method of putting letters into numbers – is a very old system derived from Ancient Greece that was adopted and widely used in Jewish texts, most notably those associated with the Cabbala for interpreting the Bible. The gematric value of the name B A C H equals the note value, B=2 A=1 C=3 H=8, adding up to 14, all numbers often exploited by Bach in his works and usually expressed as the following musical figure: B-flat, A, C, B. The number of Bach’s full name adds up to 158; this sum can be found in the final bar of the Fuga from Sonata No. 1 in G minor that directly precedes the two movements beautifully interpreted here by Jonas Zschenderlein, the Siciliana and Presto.

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR
Despite all the scholarly inquiry into Bach’s music, the Siciliana from this sonata is a prime example of music that sounds well; music that is bucolic, pastoral, and perhaps even akin to the sort of lullabies Johann Sebastian surely sung or played to his own children. Following the torment of the Fuga mentioned above, this is music for the sake of pleasurable release written in the relative major key of B-flat major. What follows is an extremely impressive finale, aptly described by Jonas himself:

Quote
During my studies I have spent quite a long time on these two movements, the Siciliana and Presto from Sonata No. 1 in G minor. Although they share the same key signature, the contrast in their characters could not be bigger, it is like day and night.

For me, the Siciliana describes a peaceful and natural landscape with animals, sometimes drifting into deeper human emotions but always remaining very positive. Whereas the Presto is so energetic and chaotic, that I imagine people talking really fast and angrily, ending with a big stubborn statement. 
JONAS ZSCHENDERLEIN


Program Notes: Joanna Butler & Hugh Ronzani, 2021
Image Credit: Keith Saunders, 2021

 


BACH SERIES PRESENTING PARTNER

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Bach's Universe

Enter Bach’s universe this August. 

Bach's Universe is an exclusive new digital-only Baroque music film by Paul Dyer and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Viewers will enter the heart of the orchestra with stunning cinematography that offers unique insight into the interplay and invention of Baroque music performance.

Directed by Stef Smith, this cinematic new production stars radiant German Baroque violinist Jonas Zschenderlein who delivers an impassioned performance of Bach's Violin Concerto in E major in his Australian debut. 

Spanning intimate instrumental works and immersive orchestral offerings, Bach’s Universe includes the timeless Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 and Prelude in E minor, BWV 855 from the first book of The Well Tempered Clavier.  

Buy your tickets at: https://brandenburg.com.au/concerts/2021/bachs-universe/

JONAS ZSCHENDERLEIN

Born and raised in Koblenz, Germany, Jonas Zschenderlein started to play the violin at the age of 5 and at just 11 years old he began the Baroque violin. As a teenager he was already playing with professional early music groups, and at this time he also founded his own ensemble 4 Times Baroque.

Between 2008 and 2014 Jonas was one of the leaders of the Baroque youth orchestra Bachs Erben, which performs without a conductor and is coached by members of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin.

As a member of the Baroque ensemble Concerto +14, he was awarded a scholarship at the German Music Competition (Deutscher Musikwettbewerb) 2012 in Bonn and was chosen for the 57th Federal Selection of Concerts for Young Artists (BAKJK).

Today, Jonas plays regularly with many early music ensembles throughout Europe such as Gaechinger Cantorey (Bachakademie Stuttgart), The English Concert, Dunedin Consort, Dorothee Oberlinger (Ensemble 1700), and Il Pomo d’Oro, and he is in great demand as a leader. Concert tours have taken him all over Europe, as well as to Japan, Korea, China, USA, Canada and South America. He has performed – often as leader or soloist – at Carnegie Hall, the Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Musikverein Vienna, Philharmonie de Paris and in nearly all the major concert venues in Germany.

Jonas studied modern violin from 2009 until 2013 with Professor Ariadne Daskalakis and Sebastian Gottschick at the University of Music and Dance (Hochschule für Musik und Tanz) in Cologne.

Studying the Baroque violin has always been an important part of his life, bringing him to the CNSMDP (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris) with Professor François Fernandez, and to the University of Music in Würzburg with Prof. Dr. Pauline Nobes and Dr. Tassilo Erhardt.

Another great influence for Jonas has been close collaborations with musicians such as Riccardo Minasi, Petra Müllejans, Maurice Steger and Hans-Christoph Rademann.

Together with the harpsichord player Alexander von Heißen, he has recorded a solo album of violin sonatas by Bach, Corelli, Westhoff and Montanari, which was released to great critical acclaim on the label Deutsche Harmonia Mundi/Sony in 2018.

Jonas is a passionate cyclist and gets inspiration for his work while riding his bike in the mountains.

Biography: Jonas Zschenderlein, 2021
Image Credit: Keith Saunders, 2021

BAROQUE VIOLIN

My violin was made by the most famous maker of all time, called “Anonymous”.

Not only is the maker unknown, but it actually is a “pasticcio” violin, built together from several instruments. Apparently, most of its parts are from Northern Italy, which is known for producing good sounding instruments. Also, the original parts of the violin were most likely made in the 18th century, so it definitely is an old instrument. I cannot even tell which luthier put the different parts of this violin together, but whoever it was did a pretty good job at finding matching pieces.

When I started to devote myself to Baroque playing during my teenage years more and more, I naturally came to the point where I wanted to have my own Baroque violin. I was about to buy a newly built instrument, but then I started swapping violins with a friend of mine during an orchestra project. He had the now famous “Northern Italian Pasticcio Violin” at that time, and I was immediately impressed by its extremely dark and mysterious sound. We both ended up buying each other’s instruments…

Instrument Notes: Jonas Zschenderlein, 2021
Image Credit: Keith Saunders, 2021

FROM THE MANUSCRIPT

The excerpt above of the Siciliana & Presto from Sonata No. 1 in G minor comes from the 1720 autograph manuscript of Bach’s collection of Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. The manuscript is currently held in the Berlin State Library.

Image Credit: Berlin State Library

FROM THE MANUSCRIPT II

The final bar of the Fuga in the image above from Sonata No. 1 in G minor comes from the 1720 autograph manuscript of Bach’s collection of Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. The notes gematically equate to the number sum of Bach’s signature: Johann Sebastian Bach (9+14+8+1+13+13 ; 18+5+2+1+18+19+9+1+13 ; 2+1+3+8 = 158). The manuscript is currently held in the Berlin State Library.

 

Image Credit: Berlin State Library

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Born 21 March 1685 in Eisenach
Died 28 July 1750 in Leipzig
Childhood (1685–1703)
Weimar, Arnstadt, and Mühlhausen (1703–1708)
Return to Weimar (1708–1717)
Cöthen (1717–1723)
Leipzig (1723–1750)

Image Credit: Berlin State Library 

FROM OUR PRESENTING PARTNER APA GROUP

APA is proud to support the Brandenburg Bach Series. Arts and entertainment are important to Australia’s diverse culture and economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic these sectors and the artists, musicians, creatives and makers at its core, have been particularly hard hit. Innovation like this online series of recitals is evidence of their innovation and resilience. It will sustain and broaden audiences for this music long into the future.

Image Credit: Katelyn Jane-Dunn, 2020

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