Chaconne in D minor, J.S. Bach

  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18177/sym.2014.54.fr.10669

The Chaconne, as a through-composed work of art, is simply perfect. It contains nothing extraneous; there is no trial and error. Every note is purposeful, creating the right momentary effect and contributing concisely to the development of large-scale drama.

Busoni’s arrangement draws upon the power, resonance, and polyphonic capabilities of the piano to elucidate ideas which Bach outlined on the violin. Bach’s violin piece is the book; Busoni’s transcription is the movie. The compositional integrity of the original is strong enough that it transcends musical style, working just as well as Busoni’s extroverted, demonstrative Romantic work .

The variations of the Chaconne explore the inner workings of an eight-bar harmonic progression. This manner of musical development is exactly what improvising jazz musicians do. I suspect that the Chaconne had its origins in Bach’s own improvisation, as he likely improvised on this chord progression many times.

Recording Date:  February 2, 2006
Recording Location:  Cedarville University
Ensemble Type:  Solo Piano
Duration: 0:14:41
Performers: John Mortensen, piano

About the Music

Composer: J.S. Bach (arr. Ferruccio Busoni)
Instrumentation: Piano
Place of Composition: Germany
Date Composed: 1723
Score: Available Here
Music Styles: Romantic

Chaconne in D minor

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Last modified on Thursday, 27/09/2018

John J. Mortensen

John Mortensen enjoys an unusually broad career as a performer and teacher of classical and jazz piano. His concerts may start with music of Bach, venture through several styles of music, and end with improvisation. He has performed with diverse artists such as Moscow Conservatory professor Mikhail Petukhov and All-Ireland fiddle champion Winifred Horan.

His students learn a natural and coordinated approach to piano technique, which prevents injury and allows for unprecedented freedom and facility at the keyboard. He also performs and teaches Irish and American roots music, playing mandolin, octave mandolin, Irish flute, Irish button accordion, five-string banjo, Uilleann pipes, and Irish whistle. He created America's only college-level traditional Irish music session class.

After his concert in Eisk, Russian Federation, the Russian press wrote that "... for John Mortensen Russia has always been close musically. He plays with especial passion the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff. ‘I don’t speak Russian, I speak Rachmaninoff,’ was heard from the mouth of the pianist during the concert. And truly, during the performance of the work of the great Russian composer, in the hall peoples of different nationalities disappeared — it seemed from the stage sang and wept the Russian soul. The chords of the next Rachmaninoff prelude had not even been played, and the hall was already conquered.”

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