BACH, J.S.: English Suites Nos. 1-3, BWV 806-808
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
English Suites Vol. 1 BWV 806-808
Suite No.1 in A Major, BWV 806
Suite No.2 in A Minor, BWV 807
Suite No.3 in G Minor, BWV 808
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach in 1685, one of alarge family of musicians. After the death of his parents he moved, at the age of ten, toOhrdruf, with his thirteen-year-old brother Johann Jacob, to live with the eldest of theirbrothers, Johann Christoph, an organist. Bach's own initial career was as an organist,after earlier appointments in Arnstadt and M??hlhausen, from 1708 until 1717 in theservice of Duke Wilhelm Ernst, elder of the two brothers ruling the duchy of Weimar. From1717 until 1723 he was Court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, withdifferent musical responsibilities, largely secular. Thereafter he served as Thomas-Kantorin Leipzig, with responsibility for music in the principal city churches, continuing thereuntil his death in 1750. This final period of his life involved him in activity with theCollegium musicum of the University, for which he arranged earlier instrumental concertosfor solo harpsichord or harpsichords, and in the assembly and publication of a number ofhis compositions, in particular a series of four volumes of keyboard music, theClavier??bung.
Bach's French Suites were written in 1722 for his second wife,Anna Magdalena. The more complicated and impressive English Suites, which have nothingparticularly English about them, may have been written during the composer's time atWeimar, perhaps in 1715, although general considerations of the type of composition makeCothen a more probable place and period of composition. Bach's sons later claimed thatthe suites were written for an Englishman of some standing, but there is no other evidenceof the existence of this mysterious patron, except the note by Johann Christian Bach onhis copy of the suites, fait pour les Anglois.
Suite No.1 in A major, BWV 806,starts with an introductory Prelude. This is followed by an Allemande, the traditionalopening of the French dance suite, followed, in due form, by a Courante, to which a secondCourante and two variations of it or Doubles are added. An imposing Sarabande is followedby a pair of Bourrees, the second, framed by a repetition of the first, in thecontrasting mode of A minor. The suite ends with a Gigue in which the lower part enters inimmediate imitation of the first, the procedure reversed and inverted in the secondsection of the dance. Suite No.2 in A minoropens with a long and impressive Prelude, followed by a coupled Allemande and FrenchCourante. The slow Sarabande has its own variation and the second Bourree is framed by arepetition of the first. The final Gigue, not here with imitative entries, makes the usualspirited conclusion. The G minor Suite againopens with a large scale Prelude, followed by an Allemande and Courante. The statelySarabande has a variation, while the first Gavotte in repetition frames a second Gavotteor Musette, the second title taken from the French bagpipe, with its single drone, herecontinuing 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 inthe second section of the dance.
A native of Germany, Wolfgang R??bsam received his musicaltraining in Europe from Erich Ackermann, Helmut Walcha and Marie-Claire Alain and in theUnited States from Robert T. Anderson. Living today in the Chicago area, he has held aprofessorship at Northwestern University since 1974, and since 1981 has served asUniversity Organist at the University of Chicago. International recognition wasestablished in 1973 when he won the Grand Prix de Chartres, Interpretation, and has grownthrough his recording career, with over eighty recordings, many of which have receivedawards. Wolfgang R??bsam performs frequently in major international festivals and concerthalls, including the Los Angeles Bach Festival; Wiener Festwochen, Vienna; LahtiInternational Organ Festival, Finland; Royal Festival Hall, London; Alice Tully Hall, NewYork, and conducts master classes both in interpretation of early and romantic organrepertoire, and in interpreting the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach on the modernpiano.