For this Assignment, I was asked to write a baroque sonata. Even though I would have had the opportunity to use the start of a previous exercise, I decided to start with a new theme. I orientated myself on Bach’s sonata IV, provided in my study folder.
One of the first difficulties to get over was the choice of instruments. I had to use one solo instrument and one for accompaniment, both from the Baroque era. I chose the viola as the solo instrument. For the accompaniment, I found it difficult to decide between the harpsichord and the clavichord. After having listened to some audio-examples of both, I decided to use the harpsichord, due to the warmer sound.
When I started to write the piece, I first focused on putting the given chords into a flowing accompaniment. I used the sonata as a support for spreading the chords into arpeggios. Up until part C (bar 17) I arranged the left hand of the harpsichord to follow this structure of the given chord: I – V – I – III. The right hand for the harpsichord is more varied and doesn’t always stick to the same scheme. I tried several phrases on the piano before I found one I was pleased with.
After that, I focused on a main theme for the piece. I used the unnamed part as an introduction and only started with a motif at the beginning of A. Not being a violinist myself I did some research on what techniques would be possible for the performer. I came across double stops and decided to include them in the theme. 1
This theme can be heard several times across the piece, even though it normally doesn’t start at the same note, the rhythm is quite distinctive. In part B, the melody following the main theme is adapted to the arpeggios from the harpsichords for one bar an then continued with a slightly more independent theme. I am especially pleased with the bars 12 to 15 as I found it difficult initially to work with the given harmonies. For part C I had the tempo reduced to less than half (from one crotchet note= 110 to 44). I thought only after finishing the piece, that a change of the pace was uncommon in the Baroque-era. For the part of C not sounding to hectic after this change, I set the whole piece down to 90.
The most difficult part was to find a suitable transition from bar 20 to 21 (start of part D). I was planning on starting with the main theme again, but could’t find the right note to start with, so that it could harmonically adapt to the harpsichord. After trying several things, I found one which I still don’t fully approve of, but I found no other way in which it would have worked. The rest of the piece was much easier again.
All in all, my approach to writing this piece was rather unusual; I normally make a clear structure of the piece before I start writing. In this case I worked more intuitive, which I enjoyed as well, even though I found it more difficult to get over certain passages.
The ornaments I used for the viola were the following:
- Thrill- bars 4, 16, 31
- Upper mordents – bars 6, 7, and 11
- Lower mordents – bars 5, 9, 20, 21 ,22 ,23 and 30
- Turns in bars 15, 17, 18,
(More information about ornaments are under the following link: Research Points
I had the following harmonies to work with:
The final piece:
1 Vienna Symphonic Library, (2019), Viola [online] available at: https://www.vsl.co.at/en/Viola/Playing_Techniques-left_hand [Accessed: 15.08.2019]