BACH, J.S.: English Suites Nos. 4-6, BWV 809-8.11
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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 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 early career was as an organist, from1708 until 1717 in the service of Duke Wilhelm Ernst, elder of the two brothers ruling theduchy of Weimar. From 1717 until 1723 he was Court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold ofAnhalt - Cothen, with different musical responsibilities, largely secular. Thereafter heserved as Thomas-Kantor in Leipzig, with responsibility for music in the principal citychurches, continuing there until his death in 1750. This final period of his life involvedhim in activity with the Collegium musicum of the University, for which he arrangedearlier instrumental concertos for solo harpsichord or harpsichords, and in the assemblyand publication of a number of his compositions, in particular a series of four volumes ofkeyboard music, the Clavier??bung.
Bach's French Suites werewritten in 1722 for his second wife, Anna Magdalena. The more complicated and impressive English Suites, which have nothing particularlyEnglish about them, may have been written during the composer's time at Weimar, perhaps in1715, although general considerations of the type of composition make Cothen a moreprobable place and period of composition. Bach's sons later claimed that the suites werewritten for an Englishman of some standing, but there is no other evidence of theexistence of this mysterious patron, except the note by Johann Christian Bach on his copyof the suites, fait pour les Anglois.
The extended Prelude of SuiteNo.4 in F major, marked vitement, opensin contrapuntal style. The Allemande introduces contrasting rhythms in its figuration andis followed by the expected French Courante and a slow Sarabande. The first Minuet isrepeated after the second, and the suite ends with a Gigue in which the lower part entersin imitation of the first, the order reversed in the inverted opening of the secondsection of the dance. Suite No. 5 in E minor
again opens with an impressive Prelude, starting in contrapuntal style. Allemande andCourante are followed by the traditional Sarabande, before the pair of Passepieds, thesecond framed by a repetition of the first, the dance similar to a more rapid version ofthe Minuet. The Gigue has the contrapuntal imitation and inversion that occurs elsewherein the suites of Bach.
Suite No.6 in D minor openswith an elaborate and extended Prelude. Allemande and Courante precede the customarySarabande, which is followed by its variation or Double. The first Gavotte is repeatedafter the second, which has some of the expected features of the Musette, with itsimitation of the bagpipe drone. A Gigue of greater complexity than is always the casebrings the suite to an end.
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.