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Bach Series

Tommie Andersson Gallichon

BACH Nº 17
Tommie Andersson performs the Double (from Sarabande) from Partita No. 1 in B minor for solo violin, BWV 1002, transcribed for Gallichon

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Double (from Sarabande)

The origin of the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin probably extends back to Bach’s first tenure in Weimar, when he was employed for six months as a court musician. One of the other Weimar court musicians at that time was Johann Paul von Westhoff, a well-educated and well-travelled violinist who in 1696 had published a set of short, four-movement Partitas for Solo Violin. These Partitas are the first known multi-movement works for unaccompanied violin and may have been known to Bach, as we can safely assume he would have met and worked with Westhoff.

Bach’s collection for solo violin was brought to a finished state in 1720 in Cöthen, during his service as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold. The collection would remain unpublished until 1802, but it remains unknown when and by whom these works were first performed, although it is highly probable Bach himself played them as he was also an accomplished violinist.

Since the publication of the collection, many adaptations and transcriptions of the Sonatas and Partitas have been made for a multitude of instruments by various composers and musicians. Founding Member of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra Tommie Andersson explains how he came to create his own transcription for this performance:

I first heard this Sarabande (which was originally written for the solo violin) in Year 8 in high school in a music class and fell in love with it straight away. It came from an LP with Andres Segovia on classical guitar, so a very romantic rendition and far removed from our historically informed practice but it made a huge impression on me. Since then, I kept it in my repertoire as a classical guitarist and when I switched over to playing Bach on the lute it was an obvious choice to play it on the gallichon since its tuning is so similar to the guitar. I find that a lot of Bach’s solo violin and cello music lends itself really well to be transcribed to a plucked instrument. In this transcription I have taken the bassline down the octave when suitable and I have filled out some chords to broaden the harmony. I have tried not to make any big changes so that the character of the piece stays the same.

So why not play a piece by Bach that was actually written for the lute I hear you say? Well, the question of Bach’s so-called 'lute works' is a real can of worms and there is a lot of debate and different opinions about it. Personally, I do not really think that Bach wrote any works for the solo lute as such. He may have written these pieces with the sound of a lute in his mind but there are too many unplayable passages, big chords and impossible keys to fit the description. Lute players must resort to transposing, simplifications of chords and rearranging to make Bach’s 'lute works' playable on the lute. I wonder what violinists and cellists would say if they had to treat their Sonatas, Partitas and Suites the same way to make them playable? Composers contemporary to Bach wrote music for the lute that was very idiomatic and well-suited to the instrument even if sometimes difficult; mostly in tablature so you can see at a glance where to put your left-hand fingers on the fingerboard. In my opinion, Bach probably wrote a lot of this music for the Lautenwerk (a lute-harpsichord strung with gut strings). Having said that, the music that Bach wrote is of course always outstanding, and being able to play it, on any instrument, is a privilege.

The earliest literary references to the zarabanda come to us from Latin America, and notably this form of the dance was banned in Spain in 1583 due to its extraordinary obscenity. The zarabanda and its sung text was usually accompanied by guitar, castanets, and sometimes other percussion instruments.

During the seventeenth century various forms of the dance were developing concurrently, and this movement from JS Bach’s Partita No. 1 closely aligns with the typical characteristics of the slower French and German sarabandes: set in a slow triple metre with a strong sense of balance based on four-bar phrases.

Here Tommie Andersson is performing the Double that directly follows the Sarabande from the same partita released last year on Brandenburg One. The word double is of French origin indicative of a musical variation, particularly one in which ornamentation is added to the original melody, while the supporting harmonies remain the same. It is also synonymous with the seventeenth century English term divisions.

Each beat of this Double is essentially tripletized, forming a more melodic rendition of the Sarabande that is itself more vertical in its chordal structure and therefore allows space for Tommie to add passing notes. The flowing quavers of the Double are evenly distributed, leading to a sense of perpetual motion.

Program Notes: Joanna Butler & Hugh Ronzani, 2021
Image Credit: Katelyn-Jane Dunn, 2020




Discover More

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/


Tommie Andersson, born in Bodafors, Sweden and based in Sydney since 1984, is regarded as Australia’s leading specialist in lutes and early guitars.

He completed his studies at the State Conservatorium of Music (Musikhögskolan) in Göteborg, Sweden with a Master’s Degree in Performance (Soloist Diploma), studying under Josef Holecek. Tommie was then awarded a Swiss Government Scholarship for further studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, where his teachers included Eugen M. Dombois and Hopkinson Smith.

He has toured extensively in Sweden and has given performances and masterclasses in Scandinavia, Western Europe, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan as well as tours of South America and Asia.

Tommie Andersson is highly sought after both as a soloist and as a continuo player and performs regularly with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Opera Australia, Sydney Philharmonia, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Song Company, Pinchgut Opera, the Orchestra of the Antipodes, Ensemble Battistin, Sydney Chamber Choir and The Marais Project amongst others.

He is a founding member and principal player of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and co-directs (with Marshall McGuire) the harp/theorbo consort Ludovico’s Band. As a recitalist he has performed in all the major Australian capital cities and festivals and he gives regular concerts and live broadcasts for the ABC.

Tommie Andersson appears on more than 50 discs including a solo CD of baroque lute and guitar music released on the Swedish label Musica Rediviva. He lectures in Lute and Early Guitar at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and is frequently approached by universities and conservatoriums around the country to teach and perform.

View an interview with Tommie Andersson here

Biography: Tommie Andersson, 2020
Image Credit: Georges Antoni, 2019 


Some 30 years ago, I came across a facsimile of a manuscript held in the Sächsiche Landesbibliothek in Dresden which contained 18 partitas (Soli) for gallichon by Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello. From examining the tablature, I noticed that this unusual type of lute had a tuning similar to a guitar; it was obviously very different to the prevalent 13-course (24 strings) lute which had become the province of specialists in Germany at the time. The music was of high quality and very enjoyable to play.

This set me off researching what I could find out about this lute with the exotic name. It turned out that the gallichon was used quite extensively in the German-speaking areas of Europe in the 1700s, mainly in Bohemia, Austria and Bavaria and it was often used as a continuo (accompanying) instrument especially with voices. As a matter of fact, in 1704 Johann Kuhnau, Bach's predecessor at the Thomaskirche, asked the Mayor of Leipzig for money to buy a couple of Colochonen which he explained to be a lute but with a penetrating sound.

Telemann called it Caldechon and wrote several concertos and cantatas that include it; Albrechtsberger called it Mandora and employed it in concertos with the Jews Harp. I have used many different types of lutes throughout the years in JS Bach’s St John Passion and I have concluded that the perfect instrument is the gallichon. There is also a fair amount of solo and ensemble music written for it.

Gallichon generally refers to a bass lute from the 1700s and early 1800s with a vibrating string length of 72 centimetres or greater (mine is 75cm). It can be either single- or double-strung, usually with six to up to nine courses of strings. Naturally, I was very keen to acquire my own gallichon and when I saw that a luthier in Berlin, Wolfgang Emmerich, had one for sale I snapped it up straight away! This instrument was made in 2002 and is modelled after a gallichon by Simpertus Niggel, Füssen, Bavaria in 1754.

Instrument Notes: Tommie Andersson, 2020
Image Credit: Katelyn-Jane Dunn, 2020


The above image of the Double from Partita No. 1 in B 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


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 


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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Marianne Yeomans Baroque Viola

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Tommie Andersson Gallichon

Tommie Andersson performs the Sarabande from JS Bach's Partita No. 1 in B minor for solo violin, BWV 1002, transcribed for Gallichon


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Paul Dyer performs the Prelude No. 1 in C major & Improvisation, BWV 846 from JS Bach's The Well‑Tempered Clavier, Book 1