After 300 years of playing this staple of the repertoire, you'd think violinists might come to a consensus about how to start the "Preludio" from Bach's Partita No. 3 in E major. Up-bow, or down-bow? Of course, we haven't.
I started thinking about this while working on this week's article featuring violinist and Butler School of Music violin professor Brian Lewis's advice about the Preludio. While writing it up, I noticed that Brian starts the piece on an up-bow, then he takes two ups on the first two eighths that follow. I know I start down-bow, but hmmm - why do I do that?
I dug out my editions and discovered that a lot of very knowledgeable pedagogues have different ideas about whether to start this piece up-bow or down-bow.
For example, Galamian starts it up-bow, then does a little up-up on the third and fourth eighth notes that follow. My International edition, edited by Joseph Joachim and Andreas Moser, clearly marks it with down-bow, but then they put a little up-bow on the last sixteenth note in the second measure. The Szeryng edition doesn't say either way, but it also does the little up-bow on the 16th, so the implication is that the piece would start down-bow. Bach's manuscript - to me it implies starting on the down-bow, with the big slur connecting the 16ths to the next group of eighth notes (that's my own justification for starting down-bow - I do the five-note slur). Of course, nobody wants to start the bariolage that follows on an up-bow, so whatever way you start, it all has to work out to a down-bow to start the third measure. (But of course there is always the exception - do feel free to tell me you slur the first two notes on the third measure or something....!)
I take this disagreement to mean that we can justify finding quite a range of solutions here!
So my question to you is: Do you prefer to start up, or down? If you play this piece, how do you start it, and why do you do it that way? Is it because a teacher gave you that bowing long ago? Or other reasons? Have you changed your mind over time? If you simply like to watch this piece performed, then what does your favorite performer do? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts!
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