Why did I write the partita?
It usually happens that, after a sorrowful incident, a commemorative event takes place. It also often happens that a homage of that sort includes music as a means of emotional communication. On such occasions, it is very common that the music is interpreted by a soloist. A cellist sometimes. Other times, a violinist. Often, at this kind of ceremonies, music written in the baroque is used. And rather frequently, music by Bach is chosen. Lastly, as a general rule, different movements from his partitas are used.
What most people don’t know is that, in the baroque, music hadn’t yet reached its highest degree of emotional expression, at least as we know it nowadays. It is also unknown by a great majority that a partita is composed of a collection of dances. Allemande, corrente, sarabande, bourrée, jig, gavotte, and chaconne are some of the dances which may be part of the aforementioned kind of suite. It is obvious that Bach did not write those dances with the aim of stirring people’s emotions. Much has been said about the Chaconne in D minor. It has been speculated that Bach, at some point between 1718 and 1720, placed his notes on the stave after returning from a trip and finding that his wife, Maria Barbara, had died. But the master of masters did not write music as an emotional vehicle to the enjoyment of art, but as part of his civic or religious task, as a Lutheran organist. His music transmits indescriptible emotions of great sensitivity, and yet its expressiveness is not comparable to that of music in later romanticism. It is not a matter of limitation, but of styles and ways of writing with different purposes. Moreover, Bach was far from imagining the barbarity which lay ahead of the human race in the twenty-first century.
Even though a sarabande or a gavotte may be performed at a slow tempo, it seems rather inappropriate to use dance music as a way of lifting up the spirituality of the soul to remembrance. It has been done though. It has been performed. And it will keep being performed in situations surrounded by all-encompassing sadness. Because, among other things, and although Bach’s music transcends spirituality and is written to the glory of God, most grievers are usually paying attention to their memories.
However, I felt the need to write music which would straight honor the Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust because I believed that I might recall their presence out of emotion. Therefore, it is not about having a violinist showing off his or her virtuosity, oblivious to the feeling of sadness or evocation. It is not, either, a partita in the strict sense of a suite of dances. Movements and tonality don’t correspond. There is no alternation between fast and slow movements. Lastly, it is not a matter of lifting up violin music to summits dreamt of by Ysaÿe. Absolutely not.
We have been so fortunate as to have the 1691 “Auer” Stradivarius at our disposal, courtesy of Mr and Mrs Dubois from the Canimex Group, made at a time where Bach was still alive, and which was once owned by Leopold Auer, who was the original dedicatee of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and one of the greatest exponents of the Russian school of violin pedagogy. This fact has given the work you are about to listen to a higher emotional meaning, at least from my point of view, which is that of a humble music writer.
Also, the fact of having the violinist Vicente Cueva by my side during the process of writing the music, has led it to the category of playable, whereas Auer rejected premiering Tchaikovsky’s piece because of its “unplayableness”. I am not a violinist. Nor was Tchaikovsky. So if Tchaikovsky and Brahms needed a violinist to make their works playable, I have even more so needed one myself for this partita. I say this in all sincerity and humility.
It is probable that, at the time this text was written -February, 2017-, we may be faced with the longest violin solo work in human history. This does not make it better than the worst dance written by the Master, but it does increase the difficulty in the violinist’s endeavor to keep up the highest spirituality for over fifty-six minutes. Such a considerable length of time filled with just a naked violin might displease any listener, regardless of his or her desire for spiritual union with the soul of the deceased. And, as if this were not enough, the fact of holding that state of sadness for such a length of time is not something that a performer can overcome without psychological, technical and physical training.
I have tried to have Bach’s presence in a subliminal way while writing this work. I have also tried to take Jewish music in my heart so that it mixes with my way of writing music. Therefore, it is not a suite of dances. Quite the opposite, it is a suite of memories of abominable events.
Everything we did not do, but that ought to make us feel permanently ashamed.