A poem about the poverty and riches of the violin. A bit of wood, a few strings and a bow, yet unbelievable what it can be made to produce. The last three lines are about mankind’s enormous power of perception – about all that his heart is able to follow and understand. Grillparzer is confident about man’s capabilities in this respect. He does not speak about what is beyond him.
It is highly debatable whether Grillparzer (a contemporary of Beethoven and Schubert) knew Bach’s six works for solo violin. Nevertheless he manages in this poem, without actually intending to do so, to go right to their core. It seems as if Bach demands the extremes from the violin, even more than it is capable of. A great deal is not actually performable as written, such as much of the chordal writing. Violinists and musicologists have devoted gallons of ink and hundreds of pages to this and numerous other aspects of the performance practice of Bach’s solo violin writing: much more than Bach himself needed to write down his six sonatas and partitas.
All these writers, from the first Bach biographer Forkel, to Albert Schweitzer and the great contemporary Bach expert Christoph Wolf, are children of their time and attest over and over to their ‘understanding’, their ‘truth’. In doing so, these authors raise more questions about Bach’s enigmatic works for unaccompanied violin than they can provide answers for. And then they give answers preceded by ‘perhaps’, ‘possibly’, or on occasion, ‘probably’……
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