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Bach/Starr: A Hypothetical Orchestral Model for Johann Sebastian Bach's Chaconne in D Minor, BWV 1004

An arrangement by Mark Starr for string orchestra with harpsichord continuo of the last movement of Bach's Partita No. 2 in D Minor for violin solo.

Johann Sebastian Bach

link to biography of Johann Sebastian Bach

A demo recording of this arrangement -- realized with digital musical sounds -- will begin to play automatically upon opening this page.  The audio may take from a few seconds up to a minute to load -- depending on the speed of your internet connection.  If you do not wish hear it, please click on the STOP button (or PAUSE button) on the media player, below.  Also, you may wish to adjust your volume control to a more comfortable level.

If you would like to download a copy of this audio demo in wma format (playable with Windows Media Player and other media players,) please right-click on this link: here; and then select "Save Target As..." Copies of this wma file may be freely distributed not-for-profit and unaltered.


The full score of this arrangement for string orchestra with harpsichord continuo is available for perusal, audition, purchase, downloading and printing on the website www.sibeliusmusiccom.  To jump to the sheet music online, please click on the following link:

link to sheet music online of Bach/Starr: A Hypothetical Orchestral Model for Johann Sebastian Bach's Chaconne in D Minor, BWV 1004

To display the score on a computer screen -- while listening to a synchronized MIDI performance of the music -- one must first download Sibelius' web music viewer, called Scorch.  Scorch is available free-of-charge on the sibeliusmusic.com website. (Just click on the green button marked Get Scorch)

To rent the instrumental parts for a public performance and/or commercial recording, please click on the link Contact Noteworthy in the left-hand column.

Mark Starr calls this realization of Bach's Chaconne -- originally for solo violin and now for string orchestra with harpsichord continuo -- a Hypothetical Orchestral Model, rather than a transcription.

First, it has little in common with well-known (or notorious, depending on your point of view) transcriptions of Bach's music by Leopold Stokowski and many other arrangers in the same vein. In their massive orchestrations for symphony orchestra, these arrangers posed the following question to their listeners: what would Bach's music sound like if Bach had had at his disposal all of the technical and timbral resources of the modern symphony orchestra (and the services of more than 100 musicians)?

In this Hypothetical Orchestral Model, Mr. Starr poses a very different question for his listeners: what might the Chaconne have sounded like if Bach had decided to arrange it for an orchestral ensemble that was readily available to him at various stages in his career?  The orchestral ensemble selected is the same that Bach utilized in such works as the Third Brandenburg Concerto and the famous Air from the Orchestral Suite No. 3.

Secondly, in order to realize this work for string orchestra and harpsichord continuo, it was necessary to complete all of the interruped contrapuntal lines (including the frequently disappearing bass line) -- and also the harmonies -- that are only suggested in Bach's original for violin solo. Consequently, this realization required considerably more speculative composition than would be found in a typical Bach transcription.

Lastly, this orchestration is the realization of a speculative hypothesis that Bach's version of the Chaconne for solo violin may have been a transcription of an earlier composition for orchestra or instrumental ensemble -- a composition that, like much of his music, was lost following his death. It should be remembered that musicologists have estimate that roughly one third of Bach's compositions have never been found (the third of Bach's library of manuscipts inherited by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach.)

This Hypothetical Orchestral Model is a speculative attempt to re-construct what may have been in the mind of Bach before he evidently reduced the Chaconne to a work for solo violin.  There are many precedents for this specultive theory  -- for example, Bach's reduction for solo violin of his keyboard Adagio G Major; and his orchestration of the Preludium in E major for solo violin into a sinfonia for organ solo, 3 trumpets, timpani, and string orchestra.

Mark Starr's Hypothetical Orchestral Model of Bach's Chaconne was recently performed four times by the New Century Chamber Orchestra in San Francisco, conducted (from the first chair) by the noted violinist/conductor Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.