Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach's final French Suite begins, as always, with an Allemande; here the German dance is based on a repetitive, percolating little melodic figure over left-hand patterns that sometimes are arpeggios that fit nicely under the main theme, and sometimes are more spidery figures. The Courante is quite quick and restless, the nonstop melody twisting around the staff, often followed canonically by the left hand. The Sarabande introduces gravity to the suite; it's broad, grand, but rather hesitant, and allows the performer many opportunities for ornamentation and long trills. The rest of the suite is much lighter. The Gavotte begins with a march-like figure answered by a more playful, rhythmically more dense phrase; these elements alternate throughout the movement. The Gavotte is followed by a novelty among the French Suites, a Polonaise; this seems stiff and mechanical compared to what Chopin would make of the dance a century later, but the basic rhythmic figure -- essentially triplets, although its nature is confused in the various manuscripts -- does correspond to the mild-mannered gypsy style of Telemann and Handel. The Minuet in this context seems rather effete and confined to the drawing room, for it's followed by a sprightly Bourée, the right hand remaining in constant motion over a strongly marked rhythm with an occasional little kick. The suite ends, as do all its "French" companions, with a Gigue; the perpetual-motion nature of the right-hand melodic material, followed in close pursuit by the left hand, thoroughly obscures the dotted rhythms that characterize most gigues.