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The Suite dung J S Bach's period

Baroque forms

The Suite during J S Bach's period


During J S Bach's  period the standard  order of the suite  was: Allemande-Courante-Sarabande-Gigue-Optional dance. The optional dance usually was one of  the following :  minuet, bourree, gavotte, passepied, polonaise, anglaise and air.
Apart from "simple" suites,  Bach composed 6 "French" suites, 6 "English" and 6 partitas  all of them written for for harpsichord or clavichord . It is not  clear why he called  them "English" and "French". In case of  partitas and English suites  there is always  a prelude .
The dance parts were written in AB form. The B part is extended in such a way that portends the sonata form. Regarding the style, dances of the optional part are in contrast with the rest. They are simpler and much more of  dancing character . This is because the  Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue  which are old parts, dating from the 16th century, they were no longer "dances" during Bach's period  . Rhythmically, they were  weakened and  they had already become more sophisticated in terms of music and style. On the other hand, the optional dances derived from French ballets of the 17th century (JB Lully) , so they had maintained their actual dance music


Originally the term was used for compositions written in one part (16th and 17th century). However, later German composers, especially Bach,  used this term  to collections of musical pieces. So the word became synonymous of suite. Bach wrote two collections of partitas for various instruments. The partitas of Bach are called "German suites" sometimes  by analogy with the "English" and "French" suites.

1.Willi Apel, Harvard dictionary of music, second edition, eighth printing.
2. 6 Partitas, BWV 825-830
3. 6 French Suites, BWV 812-817

               Bach Partita No.3 in E major, BWV 1006 (III. Gavotte en Rondeau)

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