Suite No. 4 in A Minor

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George Frideric Handel The subject, launched on repeated crotchets, flows into passagework intermittently riddled with chromatics and with quite far-ranging modulations. But this big piece is succeeded by a French suite consisting of the fundamental sequence of allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue, all more than usually French in feeling and ornamentation.

Bach: French Suites

Nicholson captures a Handelian dignity and g Danny Driver piano. Now he Based on corrected errors in these parts, it is apparent that Bach and the copyists were working from a version in A minor, a tone lower than the tonality of the new parts. This leads to the speculation that the familiar work for flute and strings was adapted from an earlier work in A minor. Moreover, a solo part that was already uncomfortably low in B minor is now in a tessitura that would leave the flute at a decided disadvantage.

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Since it seems unlikely that Bach would write a part with such apparent disregard for the featured instrument, the determination of the solo instrument for the earlier version of the work becomes a matter of conjecture. While no other feature of the surviving parts leaves us any clue as to what instrument this instrument might have been, the most obvious possibilities are the violin or the oboe. And if neither instrument can be conclusively ruled out, it can be noted that the oboe projects with ease in the lower tessitura of the solo part, stands out nicely against the strings in the solo passages, and can negotiate the entire work with only the smallest of adjustments.

Suite No. 5

The music of the opening movement survives in two different versions: an orchestral work scored for three trumpets, timpani, three oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo, and the opening movement of the cantata BWV Unser Mund sei voll Lachens , which adds four vocal parts to the above instrumentation. Comparing these two compositions, Joshua Rifkin has developed a compelling theory concerning the possible history of this music. In the cantata movement Bach makes effective use of the three instrumental groups at his disposal: a four-part trumpet and drum group, a four-part oboe group, and a four-part string group.

In the orchestral work, however, we find the same music written for only two instrumental groups, oboe and string , with the trumpet parts merely doubling one or the other of these two groups.

Bach: The French Suites Nos. – Glenn Gould

We can also observe that in the cantata movement there are numerous small changes in the inner parts, which appear to have been made to accommodate the new? Turning to the dance movements of the orchestral work, we can observe that the trumpet group participates only minimally.

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Taking these observations together, we can surmise that the orchestral work did not originally include the trumpet group, and that when Bach decided to adapt the music of the opening movement in for the cantata movement, he added the trumpet group and reworked the composition to accommodate this addition. How or why the trumpet parts from the cantata came to be attached to the orchestral suite remains a mystery, but when the orchestral work is performed without the trumpet group the inventive interplay between the oboe and string groups becomes the main focus of a dazzling instrumental work, amply compensating for any loss of grandeur.

Expanding on the theme of arrangement and adaptation are the two chorale preludes presented here. A devout Lutheran, Bach seems to have found a continuous source of deep inspiration in the German chorale repertory, as demonstrated by more than works he composed in this genre.


A purely instrumental arrangement of these keyboard works can be fashioned by extracting the ornamented chorale for performance by an appropriate instrument, and arranging the underlying parts for other accompanying instruments. The study of the works of a great composer is always a revealing process. The exploration of familiar works through the lens of earlier versions, with their subtle changes in tonality and instrumentation, allows us to experience them differently.

And once these hidden earlier versions are brought to light, who is to say whether or not they will find their place as accepted, or even preferred versions of these great works? The ensemble Four Centuries of Bach was formed by John Abberger to present historically informed performances of the works of J.

As we celebrate the th anniversary of J.

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