Bach: Ciaccona and its References - Schilde

Bach: Ciaccona and its References - Schilde

MDG Scene  903 2004-6

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber

Bach: Partita No. 2 in D minor*, BWV 1004, Dein Will gescheh' allzeit, In meines Herzens Grunde & Jesu, deine Passion (chorales from St John Passion), 4-part chorales: Befiehl du deine Wege, Jesu, meine Freude, Christ lag in Todesbanden, Den Tod niemand zwingen kunnt, Nun lob mein Seel den Herren, Chorale from Cantata 'Wo soll ich fliehen hin', Chorale from Cantata 'Auf meinen lieben Gott'
Mendelssohn: Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor*/**, BWV 1004 (arr. violin & piano)

Gertrud Schilde* (violin)
Jan Philip Schulze** (piano)
Norddeutscher Kammerchor
Maria Jürgensen (conductor)

Thrilling Search
Music too has thriller potential. It is with a master sleuth’s methods that Gertrud Schilde has probed the enigmatic and monumental Ciaccona from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita in D minor and uncovered spectacular evidence in the form of a whole series of traditional chorale melodies hidden away in its intricate compositional design. On this eye-opener of an album the enterprising violinist teams up with the Northern German Chamber Choir to present her revealing discoveries.

Tragic Substance
Martin Luther’s consoling Easter hymn “Christ lag in Todesbanden” runs like a red thread through the work. The chorales, from “Jesu, deine Passion” through “Den Tod niemand zwingen kunnt” to “Jesu, meine Freude,” deal with the double theme of death and resurrection. This is surely no coincidence. Bach penned this work not too long after the death of his first wife. It was not until he returned from an official trip to
Karlsbad that he learned of this tragic event – when his beloved wife already lay in her grave.

Subtle Traces
It is thus not surprising that traces of Maria Barbara are encountered in the Ciaccona. However, Bach would not have been Bach if he had not avoided obvious allusions, preferring instead to use a subtly encoded numerical mysticism. Again and again his wife’s name can be deciphered; the year of her death can be found as well as the names of their children. In this way the Ciaccona occupying a central and special place in the cycle of three sonatas and three partitas for violin solo becomes a magnificent memorial tribute to his late wife.

Spectacular Transfer
Gertrud Schilde adds yet another aspect to this surprising discovery: together with Jan Philip Schulze she also presents the Mendelssohn version of the Ciaccona with piano accompaniment, which sheds bright new light on the rhythmic and harmonic course taken by this splendid masterpiece. The chorales produce a fresh and vibrant impression with the knowledgeable conductor Maria Jürgensen. This release in the form of a hybrid SACD not only perfectly realizes the wishes of stereo listeners but also makes dreams come true for all those music fans who value the audiophile aspect offered by a three-dimensional reproduction in 2+2+2 Recording technology

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Reviews (1)

Review by John Broggio - August 13, 2017

A very interesting project.

Opening with one of the many chorales that academics cited in some of the best notes gracing a SACD release, the Norddeutscher Kammerchor under Maria Jürgensen give a disarmingly simple rendition of the chorale from "Ich habe meine Zuversicht", before Gertrud Schilde presents all of Bach's second Partita, excluding the famous chaconne. Although Schilde plays on a modern violin, there is more than a nod of the head towards HIP and so, although many will want to compare directly to Bach: Violin Partitas 1-3, Violin Sonatas 1-3 - Fischer, one must understand that fundamentally different approaches to sound production and phrasing are at play, despite both violinists being taught by the great Ana Chumachenco. Where Fischer is more fleet of finger and playful, Schilde is more considered and purposefully restrained in matters of tonal & dynamic production; both bring probing minds to the notes and what meaning can be found with them but although the source material is the same, the questions posed by each artist are radically different.

A further 5 chorales "interrupt" the partita (aside: in the track listing, Den Tod niemand zwingen kunnt is mistakenly attributed to BWV 277, it comes from BWV 4) before we hear Schilde's first interpretation of the great chaconne. Although each contribution from the Norddeutscher Kammerchor under Maria Jürgensen lasts less than 2 minutes, they very cleanly reveal the sheer variety that Bach managed to elicit from an apparently limiting number of polyphonic lines and a comparatively small amount of text. And it is in the chaconne that Schilde's HIP influenced interpretation arguably scores over Fischer's. For one, the much more moderate use of vibrato here means the chords with open strings no longer stand out so starkly and if one could imagine Fischer conceiving her performance having mastered the Busoni transcription, there are no such thoughts here because Schilde's playing is much less grand.

A final quartet of chorales complete the contribution of the Norddeutscher Kammerchor under Maria Jürgensen before the "encore" in which Schilde is joined by Jan Philip Schulze in Mendelssohn's arrangement of the chaconne. Needless to say it is far from how Busoni reimagines the work but there are passages where one can hear Mendelssohn wrapping the Bach in some of his harmonic progressions famous from, say, Elijah. For the most part though, Mendelssohn is remarkably restrained (the piano is silent for whole phrases) and Schulze is a sympathetic, imaginative accompanist to Schilde.

The recording is equally good for the choral and instrumental contributions, with the same acoustic (Konzerthaus der Abtei Marienmünster) serving everyone well.

This is perhaps not a "wow, listen to this" release but it is rewarding on many levels.

Copyright © 2017 John Broggio and


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Comments (3)

Comment by William Hecht - August 17, 2017 (1 of 3)

Thanks for the review, John. I'm wondering whether this will add to my understanding of the Bach so may I ask if it's clear whether the detective work in the Ciaconna is Schilde's as the note above seems to imply or Helga Thoene's, as on the LSO Live coupling with the Faure Requiem (and the ECM rbcd entitled Morimur which was my first exposure to the Professor's work)? Thanks again.


Comment by John Broggio - September 3, 2017 (2 of 3)

I think it's Schilde's but I'd be surprised if she came to radically different conclusions!

Comment by William Hecht - September 3, 2017 (3 of 3)

Thanks, John, I appreciate all the effort you and the other guys put into keeping us informed.