Publisher: Novello & Co
Latent Manifest (2010),
A BBC Radio 3 commission for the BBC Proms 2010. First performed in the Royal Albert Hall, London, by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Litton on 14 August 2010.
Novello & Co Ltd
Latent Manifest can be described as a “transcription” of intimations found in the first movement (Adagio) of J. S. Bach’s Sonata No. 3 for Solo Violin in C Major (BWV 1005). My cue is from the composer himself; when he adapted this movement for solo harpsichord (BWV 968), the result was more a fantasia than a conventional transcription.
By introducing elements of four-part polyphony to an instrument only really capable of playing a single line, the “illusions” which Bach plays upon the ear of the listener across the entire set of six partitas and sonatas for solo violin (BWV 1001-6, completed in 1720) are mesmerising.
One need only listen to the realisations of two different interpreters of the Adagio to comprehend just how much of Bach’s composition lies in allusion: almost all the rhythmic and melodic ideas one actually hears are simply not written down. When compared aurally, and perhaps even in terms of technique, to Steve Reich’s important 1967 work Violin Phase (where arguably the compositional interest is found in between the written notes, in the process of temporal variation, as the patterns begins to “phase”), one sees that Bach really was ahead of his time!
Thus, whilst a direct transcription of the notes on the page of Bach’s C Major Adagio magnified for orchestra is possible, it would account for much less than half of the musical experience when compared to hearing a performance of the original solo work. Instead, Latent Manifest expands “the other half’ – the experience of implication.
As an exploration of Bach’s hidden harmonies and textures, from a single line which opens the piece to a hinting at the myriad layering of performative difference, I try – in this orchestral piece – to present my own evidence of Bach’s compositional intent in his work for solo violin.