Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, the capital
of the duchy of Saxe-Eisenach, in present-day Germany,
on 21 March 1685 O.S. (31 March 1685 N.S.). He was the
son of Johann Ambrosius Bach, the director of the town
musicians, and Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt.
The authorship of this sonata is uncertain; it may
indeed be an early work of J.S. Bach, but it also may
be the work of Bach's pupil, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg
(of Goldberg Variations fame). Stylistically, the
sonata seems a bit early for Goldberg, whose music was
more akin to the works of Bach's sons, but if he did
write it, he probably did so around 1745. If it is
authentic to Bach, it is most likely from the
composer's time in Cöthen between 1717 and 1723.
Regardless of its creator, the sonata follows the
Italian church sonata format -- four movements
alternating in slow-fast-slow-fast tempos. The final
movement gigue is another sign of Italian infuence. The
opening Adagio begins with a tense, long-held violin
note that soon relaxes into a more florid line in the
manner of Corelli's trio sonatas, or Bach's famous Air
on the G String. The second violin initially plays a
supporting harmonic role, but by the halfway mark it
engages the first violin in imitative counterpoint. The
second movement, Alla breve, takes as its main theme
four notes in chromatic descent: C, B, B flat, and A.
This is a rearrangement of Bach's own musical motif
derived from the spelling of his name (the B flat
standing in for H). The violins spend the movement
elaborating on these notes over a turbulent rhythm and
bass line. Far more austere is the short Largo, with
its Corellian atmosphere and the violins imitating one
another at some distance. Spirits rise with the Gigue,
in which the violins' interplay centers around
repetitions of a joyful ascending figure.
Although originally written for 2 Violins & continuo, I
created this Arrangement of the Trio Sonata in C Major
(BWV 1037) for Woodwind Trio (Flute, Oboe & Bassoon).