Difficulty Ranking of BACH Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin | Violin Lounge TV #470

by | Apr 20, 2022 | Repertoire | 1 comment

I know nothing which improves your violin technique as quickly and consistently as practicing Bach

How hard are Bach partitas? What is the difficulty level of Bach’s Chaconne?

In this video I’ll rank all movements in difficulty, so you know exactly where to start:

Bach’s solo violin sonatas and partitas BWV 1001-1006 are seen as the most difficult or at least one of the most difficult works for the violin

On the other side some movements should be studied quite early in your violin journey. The great thing about Bach is that it sounds great, even if you’re not playing it at the speed most modern performers do. It’s very important that you study the movements that are suitable for your current violin playing level.

How difficult are the solo violin works by JS Bach to play on the violin?

Learn where you should start and download free sheet music:

What are the easiest and hardest partitas and sonatas for solo violin by Bach?

Playing Bach boosts your violin skills. It improves your intonation, bow control and sound. Professional violinist study Bach’s sonatas and partitas almost daily throughout their whole life. At the same time violin players with a few years of experience can already play the easier movements.

First start with easier violin pieces by Bach

Don’t get discouraged if at this stage of your violin journey all the movements in the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin are too hard for you. You can already get started and enjoy playing Bach by practicing the violin concerto in A minor or the double concerto in D minor for two violins.

Where to start playing Bach’s Solo Violin Partitas and Sonatas?

Here are the easiest movements:

Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 – Doubles not higher than third position and no double stops. Choose a low tempo and mind all the alternations. The doubles are linked to (variations of) the movements before, which might be too difficult in this stage.

Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 – Giga (up to third position, eventual tempo is fast, but in the earlier stages of your violin playing you can choose a lower tempo)

Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006 – Bourée, Minuets I and II (double stops might be tricky though), Gigue (possible in first position, but quite some alterations)

So what does easy mean? Of course it’s hard to give a meaningful performance also of these ‘easy’ movements. However, for violin players with less experience, it’s possible to enjoy studying these movements. After a few years of violin playing you might already give them a try!

Intermediate movements of Bach’s sonatas and partitas

These are a bit harder than the previous, mainly because the intonation is more challenging to get right, the string crossings are trickier, for some the tempo and transitions are faster and there are harder double stops.

Other repertoire you might be studying if you want to play these movements might be Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Beethoven Romances and you might have started playing a Mozart concerto.

Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 – Courante
Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 – Allemande, Corrente, Sarabanda
Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006 – Gavotte en rondeau
Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 – Adagio
Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005 – Allegro assai

Movements of Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin for more advanced violinists

You can play this when you also play romantic concertos like Mendelssohn and Bruch. Of course the type of difficulties is a bit different, so it differs per student what repertoire they find comparable in difficulty.

In these movements we see more complex chords and double stops, rhythms, fast string crossings and position play:

Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 – Allemande and Double, Sarabande and Double, Tempo di Borea and Double
Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006 – Preludio, Loure
Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 – Siciliana, Presto
Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003 – Andante, Allegro
Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005 – Adagio, Largo

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

Hardest movements of Bach’s sonatas and partitas

Mainly because of the sheer length of these movements and the complex double stops and chords, these movements rank as most difficult:

Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 – Chaconne
Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 – Fugue
Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003 – Fugue
Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005 – Fugue

Disclaimer

I’ve done my best to give an idea where to get started and what the order is to study these works, but for each individual students it’s of course different what he/she experiences to be difficult. We all have different challenges and talents.

My online course and community of Bach loving violin players

In collaboration with concert violinist Antal Zalai, who made one of my favorite recordings of all 6 sonatas and partitas by JS Bach, I’ve created an online course and community. Antal made exclusive video lessons to teach ALL movements of the sonatas and partitas and students can send in their videos for feedback.

Listen to Antal Zalai’s interpretation of the FULL Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin

Do you want to learn from Antal? Join my Bach course and community right here.

1 Comment

  1. Joey

    Thanks for the rankings. This provides a nice road map for those of us who want to explore on our own pace these great pieces by Bach.

    Reply

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