One of my students is really in the thick of things. She’s working on the Swan AND the Sarabande from the 3rd Suite. Like many who came before her, the Swan is this wonderful elixir: it challenges and comforts, it’s a tool for channeling expression and technique, and above all, is a reward for attaining a certain level of ability and poise on the instrument.
The Sarabande, however…there’s just nothing to prepare you for it, and the first time studying it is far removed from the silken glamorous promise it holds for some point in the (seemingly) distant future.
The student said as much yesterday. “Yeah, I play the Swan for fun sometimes, but the Sarabande just sounds… *crunching noises*” I understand completely, and offered the following ridiculous anecdote, which at the very least made us giggle:
The Swan is an uphill jog. It’s hard at times, but doable. There is an end goal clearly in sight. With practice, it even becomes enjoyable, and its impact on your playing is fairly easy to see. The Sarabande, however, is like getting strapped to the hood of a car and being driven face-first, at speed, through a corn field. You just have to go through it, and it’s best if you don’t flinch. The good thing about it, though— when you go back to play it again, there will already be a line for you to follow. Unfortunately, it is the place you just had to plow with your face, but that’s the only way to create a clearing so you can see what the way forward looks like.
Of course this sounds like nonsense until you’re studying these inner movements of Bach. Those who have been in the corn fields will know exactly what I mean.
With love and cello-y solidarity,