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Johann Sebastian Bach

Like each of its five brothers, J.S. Bach's French Suite No. 2 in C minor, BWV 813 is not French at all, but actually a true German-style, multi-movement keyboard suite. Composed sometime during the late Cöthen or early Leipzig years (ca.1721 - 1725), it was included, as were all six of the French Suites save the last, in the composer's Clavierbüchlein for Anna Magdalena Bach. In the case of BWV 813, there are six movements, each set in the home key of C minor: "Allemande," "Courante," "Sarabande," "Air," "Menuet," and "Gigue." (An additional minuet movement is found in some manuscript copies of the Suite No. 2; it is known as BWV 813a.)

As per tradition, the opening Allemande, which gradually reveals its binary-form intricacies by way of steady, purposeful strokes, is the longest of the suite's movements. The following Courante is of the quicker Italian variety (as opposed to the more solemn French one), while the Sarabande and the Air make for a perfectly balanced central pair. The former, and longer, explores a languorous and elegantly adorned 3/4 meter, while the latter works through a succession of compact, sharp-edged phrases in alla breve 16th notes. The irrepressible catch rhythms (dotted 8th/16th/8th) of the final Gigue are all the more lively and earthen after the restrained and aristocratic Menuet.