Violin Sonata no. 3 in E major

Violin Sonata no. 3 in E major

BWV 1016 performed by Shunske Sato and Menno van Delft
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • 1. Adagio
  • 2. Allegro
  • 3. Adagio ma non tanto
  • 4. Allegro

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

A love duet

Bach fans the flames between harpsichord and violin

“Sie machen mir viel Vergnügen, ohngeacht sie über 50 Jahre alt sind”, said Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel in 1774. He was sending Bach’s six sonatas for violin and harpsichord, BWV 1014-1019, to Johann Nikolaus Forkel, who was writing a biography of father Bach. Carl Philipp Emanuel continued, “es sind einige Adagii darin, die man heut zu Tage nicht sangbarer setzen kann”. If any Adagio deserves the label ‘melodious’, then it is the third movement of the Sonata in E major. Incidentally, Carl Philipp Emanuel referred to Bach’s six sonatas as “Clavier trios”, as the violin and the right hand of the harpsichord are equal partners, while the left hand plays a separate bass part – so they are real trio sonatas.

Apparently, Bach himself also derived great pleasure from the collection of six, as he kept tinkering with them from his Köthen years (1717-1723) right up to his death, even when he was making chamber music with his Collegium Musicum in Leipzig.

In the slow opening section of the Sonata in E major, the harpsichord still has an accompanying role (although a very beautiful one, full of elegant modulations), but in the Allegro the players are already exchanging thematic material enthusiastically. The deservedly famous Adagio could almost be a classical passacaglia, if it were not for the fact that the violin soon takes on the ‘accompanying’ chords and leaves plenty of room for the harpsichord. This makes the musical entanglement complete, and the musical partners curve sensually around one another. The exuberant last movement gives a display based on two themes: at the beginning and end a flashy roller coaster of quick runs, and in the middle a more lyrical line of swaying triplets.

Sonata for harpsichord and violin no. 3 in E major
harpsichord, violin
chamber music
Six sonatas (violin and harpsichord)

Extra videos

Violinist Shunske Sato

“The many copies that have been preserved show the popularity of these Violin sonatas, even in the period after Bach's death.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    15 July 2016
  • Recording date
    17 October 2015
  • Location
    Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
  • Violin
    Shunske Sato
  • Harpsichordist
    Menno van Delft
  • Harpichord
    Geert Karman naar J.H. Gräbner, 1774
  • Film director and editor
    Dick Kuijs
  • Music production, editing and mix
    Everett Porter
  • Camera
    Martine Rozema, Caroline Nutbey
  • Studio assistent
    Marijn Kooy
  • Gaffer
    Tim Groot
  • Interview
    Gijs Besseling, Kasper Koudenburg
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh

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