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First Sonata for Solo Violin: Adagio (Autograph 1720)
The Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin (BWV 1001–1006) are a set of six works composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. They consist of three sonatas da chiesa, in four movements, and three partitas, in dance-form movements. The set was completed by 1720, but was only published in 1802 by Nicolaus Simrock in Bonn. Even after publication, it was largely ignored until the celebrated violinist Josef Joachim started performing these works. Today, Bach's Sonatas and Partitas are an essential part of the violin repertoire, and they are frequently performed and recorded. The Sei Solo – a violino senza Basso accompagnato, as Bach titled them, firmly established the technical capability of the violin as a solo instrument. The pieces often served as an archetype for solo violin pieces for the following generations of composers including Eugène Ysaÿe, Béla Bartók, and Paul Hindemith. * |
 History of composition
Bach started composing these works around 1703, while at Weimar, and the set was completed by 1720, when Bach was a Kapellmeister in Köthen. He was almost certainly inspired by Johann Paul von Westhoff's partitas for solo violin, since he worked alongside Westhoff at Weimar, and the older composer's pieces share some stylistic similarities with Bach's. Solo violin repertoire was actively growing at the time: Heinrich Ignaz Biber's celebrated solo passacaglia appeared c.1676, Westhoff's collections of solo violin music were published in 1682 and 1696, Johann Joseph Vilsmayr's Artificiosus Concentus pro Camera in 1715, and finally, Johann Georg Pisendel's solo violin sonata was composed around 1716. The tradition of writing for solo violin did not die after Bach, either; Georg Philipp Telemann published 12 Fantasias for solo violin in 1735. The tradition of polyphonic violin writing was already well-developed in Germany, particularly by Biber, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, and the composers of the so-called Dresden school - Johann Jakob Walther and Westhoff. Bach's Weimar and Köthen periods were particularly suitable times for composition of secular music, for he worked as a court musician. Bach's cello and orchestral suites date from the Köthen period, as well as the famous Brandenburg concertos and many other well-known collections of instrumental music. It is not known whether Bach's works were performed during his lifetime or, if they were, who the performer was. Johann Georg Pisendel and Jean-Baptiste Volumier, both talented violinists in the Dresden court, have been suggested as possible performers, as was Joseph Speiss, leader of the orchestra in Köthen. Friedrich Wilhelm Rust, who would later become part of the Bach family circle in Leipzig, also became a likely candidate. Bach himself also possibly gave the first performance. According to his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "in his youth, and until the approach of old age, he played the violin cleanly and powerfully".  Manuscripts and major editions
Upon Bach's death in 1750, the original manuscript passed into the possession, possibly through his second wife Anna Magdalena, of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach. It was inherited by the last male descendant of J.C.F. Bach, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst, who passed it on to his sister Louisa of Bückeburg. It was discovered by Georg Pölschau in St. Petersburg, under a pile of old music about to be used as wrapping paper. The manuscript itself was in poor condition and parts of the D minor Partita had been torn out. Two other manuscripts were also known to exist. One, identified as an authentic Bach autograph from his Leipzig period, was also acquired by Pölschau from the Royal Library of Berlin. The other, a copy made by one of Bach's students Johann Peter Kellner, was well preserved, despite the fact that the B minor Partita was missing from the set. All three manuscripts...