The Partita in D minor for solo violin (BWV 1004) by
Johann Sebastian Bach was written during 1717--1723.
Professor Helga Thoene suggests that this partita, and
especially its last movement, was a tombeau written in
memory of Bach's first wife, Maria Barbara Bach (who
died in 1720), though this theory is controversial.
In the preface to his 1955 transcription, John Cook
writes: "The Chaconne is sublimely satisfying in its
original form, yet many will agree that a single violin
is only able to hint at the vast implications of much
of this music ... It is perhaps not unreasonable to
suppose that Bach would have chosen the organ, had he
transcribed the Chaconne himself, as the instrument
best suited to the scale of his ideas ... A good
performance on the violin may be taken as the best
guide to interpretation on the organ — the two
instruments are not without their points in common, and
both were beloved of Bach."
The earliest version for organ is by William Thomas
Best. Further transcriptions are by John Cook, Wilhelm
Middelschulte, Walter Henry Goss-Custard (1915--55),
and Henri Messerer (1838--1923).
Since Bach's time, several different transcriptions of
the piece have been made for other instruments,
particularly for the piano (by Ferruccio Busoni and
Joachim Raff), and for the piano left-hand (by Brahms).
Johannes Brahms, in a letter to Clara Schumann, said
about the ciaccona: On one stave, for a small
instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest
thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that
I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am
quite certain that the excess of excitement and
earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of
my mind. Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann each
wrote piano accompaniments for the work.
Although this piece was originally written for Violin,
I transcribed it for Solo Viola.