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8.553013 - BACH, J.S.: English Suites Nos. 4-6, BWV 809-811

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

English Suites Val. 2 BWV 809-811
Suite No.4 in F Major, BWV 809
Suite No.5 in E Minor, BWV 810
Suite No.6 in D Minor, BWV 811

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 early career was as an organist, 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.

The extended Prélude of Suite No.4 in F major, marked vitement, opens in contrapuntal style. The Allemande introduces contrasting rhythms in its figuration and is followed by the expected French Courante and a slow Sarabande. The first Minuet is repeated after the second, and the suite ends with a Gigue in which the lower part enters in imitation of the first, the order reversed in the inverted opening of the second section of the dance. Suite No. 5 in E minor again opens with an impressive Prélude, starting in contrapuntal style. Allemande and Courante are followed by the traditional Sarabande, before the pair of Passepieds, the second framed by a repetition of the first, the dance similar to a more rapid version of the Minuet. The Gigue has the contrapuntal imitation and inversion that occurs elsewhere in the suites of Bach.

Suite No.6 in D minor opens with an elaborate and extended Prélude. Allemande and Courante precede the customary Sarabande, which is followed by its variation or Double. The first Gavotte is repeated after the second, which has some of the expected features of the Musette, with its imitation of the bagpipe drone. A Gigue of greater complexity than is always the case brings the suite to an end.

Wolfgang Rübsam
A native of Germany, Wolfgang Rübsam received his musical training in Europe from Erich Ackermann, Helmut Walcha and Marie-Claire Alain and in the United States from Robert T. Anderson. Living today in the Chicago area, he has held a professorship at Northwestern University since 1974, and since 1981 has served as University Organist at the University of Chicago. International recognition was established in 1973 when he won the Grand Prix de Chartres, Interprétation, and has grown through his recording career, with over eighty recordings, many of which have received awards. Wolfgang Rübsam performs frequently in major international festivals and concert halls, including the Los Angeles Bach Festival; Wiener Festwochen, Vienna; Lahti International Organ Festival, Finland; Royal Festival Hall, London; Alice Tully Hall, New York, and conducts master classes both in interpretation of early and romantic organ repertoire, and in interpreting the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach on the modern piano.

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