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Bach Series

Marianne Yeomans Baroque Viola

BACH Nº 6
Marianne Yeomans performs the Allemanda from JS Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004, transcribed for viola in G minor

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PROGRAM NOTES

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

PARTITA NO. 2 IN D MINOR, BWV 1004
Allemanda

Music making with instruments is an art form born of invention and perhaps as old as humanity itself. In this regard, the music of the Baroque period is no different and it is in the life’s work of Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries that much can be learned about the art of transcription.

In general terms, transcription is the adaptation of a piece of music for a different instrument, voice, or group of these. During the Baroque period, competition between courts in Europe was rife and the sharing of the most fashionable music of the day created a necessity for musical solutions to suit the specific instruments and forces at hand. Bach’s organ and harpsichord transcriptions of music by Vivaldi, Marcello, Torelli and others attest to this.

Despite being known primarily as a keyboard virtuoso, Bach’s skill as a multi-instrumentalist surely facilitated his work transcribing music. While he never wrote music for solo viola, it would not be irreverent to imagine transcriptions of his works for solo violin or cello being performed by other solo instruments, such as the viola.

During her research in preparation for her solo performance in the Bach Series, Brandenburg violist Marianne Yeomans came across some interesting insights into JS Bach’s musical preferences:

Quote
Bach was a keen violist. He is reported to have preferred playing the viola in chamber music. Johann Nikolaus Forkel wrote in his 1802 biography of Bach, “In musical parties… he took pleasure in playing the viola. With this instrument he was, as it were, in the centre of harmony, whence he could best hear and enjoy it on both sides."
MARIANNE YEOMANS

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR
From all accounts 1720 would have been a terribly difficult year for JS Bach; the sudden death of his much-loved first wife, Maria Barbara, was only announced to him upon his return home from Carlsbad with Prince Leopold. Whether it was one of the couple’s four surviving children who gave him the news or Maria Barbara’s older sister who had been living with the family for more than a decade, is not known. History only records that this profound loss had a lasting impact on Bach’s life.

The completed autograph manuscript of Bach’s Partitas and Sonatas for solo violin also comes to us from the year 1720. Some scholars have drawn comparisons between the tragic loss of his wife and the sorrowful musical content of Partita No. 2 in D minor in particular. The Allemanda is the opening movement of the D minor partita, written by Bach in keeping with the stately, flowing steps of the processional figure dance that was popular at the time. From a performer’s perspective, Marianne Yeomans shared the following observations:

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Each movement [of the partita] is written in a minor key and has strongly emotive characteristics. Despite the dance-like movements, joyfulness is not depicted in them.
MARIANNE YEOMANS


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

 


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MARIANNE YEOMANS

Marianne began learning the violin at the age of 7 after finding she was too small to play the viola, which was her first choice. She started on the viola when she was 14 and continued to study both instruments at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music High School.

Marianne then went on to gain her Bachelor of Music from the Sydney Conservatorium and soon after headed to the UK, where she continued postgraduate studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. She studied both Modern and Baroque viola at the RNCM with Pedrag Katanic and Annette Isserlis. It was during her time in the UK that Marianne also found her love of chamber music and gained her Master of Music in String Quartet Performance with Distinction. 

Marianne spent several years in the UK touring and playing with the Rivoli String Quartet as well as the BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestras. The pull of the Australian outdoor lifestyle was eventually too strong to ignore and Marianne headed back to Australia in 2008. Since returning to Australia, Marianne has enjoyed playing with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and is also a sought-after musician, enjoying a lively and varied career performing with Australia’s leading ensembles and orchestras on both period and modern violas.

Biography: Marianne Yeomans, 2020
Image Credit: Georges Antoni, 2019

Marianne Yeoman's Stradivaris Viola

BAROQUE VIOLA

I purchased my instrument in Sydney in 2010 and immediately felt at one with it. I remember feeling really united with it, and I loved its size and shape because it is easy enough to get around, but with its wider body the sound is not inhibited. The neck is comfortable to hold, which is often a cumbersome feature of Baroque violas for me.

It is a copy of an anonymous Italian instrument, and I have had several modifications made. Simon Brown flattened the fingerboard a little more, made me a new flatter bridge and a new tail piece. A few years later, Antoine Lesperts moved the sound post around to help with a wolf note and to work on the sound of the projection of the G and C strings.

I am always experimenting with strings and gauges, but in general I use plain gut for A and D and wound gut for G and C. My favourite strings are A and G. The A because it can sound sweet and blends well, but is also able to create a more striking sound and project when required. The G because it is so warm, very beautiful and can also blend well.

It is also a very pretty-looking instrument, not exactly important, but it’s a bonus!

Instrument Notes: Marianne Yeomans, 2020
Image Credit: Katelyn-Jane Dunn, 2020

FROM THE MANUSCRIPT

The excerpt above of the Allemanda from Partita No. 2 in D 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

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)
Köthen (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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