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8.553012 - BACH, J.S.: English Suites Nos. 1-3, BWV 806-808
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
English Suites Vol. 1 BWV 806-808
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach in 1685, one of a large family of musicians. After the death of his parents he moved, at the age of ten, to Ohrdruf, with his thirteen-year-old brother Johann Jacob, to live with the eldest of their brothers, Johann Christoph, an organist. Bach's own initial career was as an organist, after earlier appointments in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen, from 1708 until 1717 in the service of Duke Wilhelm Ernst, elder of the two brothers ruling the duchy of Weimar. From 1717 until 1723 he was Court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, with different musical responsibilities, largely secular. Thereafter he served as Thomas-Kantor in Leipzig, with responsibility for music in the principal city churches, continuing there until his death in 1750. This final period of his life involved him in activity with the Collegium musicum of the University, for which he arranged earlier instrumental concertos for solo harpsichord or harpsichords, and in the assembly and publication of a number of his compositions, in particular a series of four volumes of keyboard music, the Clavierübung.
Bach's French Suites were written in 1722 for his second wife, Anna Magdalena. The more complicated and impressive English Suites, which have nothing particularly English about them, may have been written during the composer's time at Weimar, perhaps in 1715, although general considerations of the type of composition make Cöthen a more probable place and period of composition. Bach's sons later claimed that the suites were written for an Englishman of some standing, but there is no other evidence of the existence of this mysterious patron, except the note by Johann Christian Bach on his copy of the suites, fait pour les Anglois.
Suite No.1 in A major, BWV 806, starts with an introductory Prélude. This is followed by an Allemande, the traditional opening of the French dance suite, followed, in due form, by a Courante, to which a second Courante and two variations of it or Doubles are added. An imposing Sarabande is followed by a pair of Bourrées, the second, framed by a repetition of the first, in the contrasting mode of A minor. The suite ends with a Gigue in which the lower part enters in immediate imitation of the first, the procedure reversed and inverted in the second section of the dance. Suite No.2 in A minor opens with a long and impressive Prélude, followed by a coupled Allemande and French Courante. The slow Sarabande has its own variation and the second Bourrée is framed by a repetition of the first. The final Gigue, not here with imitative entries, makes the usual spirited conclusion. The G minor Suite again opens with a large scale Prélude, followed by an Allemande and Courante. The stately Sarabande has a variation, while the first Gavotte in repetition frames a second Gavotte or Musette, the second title taken from the French bagpipe, with its single drone, here continuing throughout. The concluding Gigue opens with a lively subject in the upper part, imitated in the second part, with the expected reversal of entry order and inversion in the second section of the dance.
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