Bach – Ouvertüren ‘suiten’ nr 1 & 2

https://www.discogs.com/Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Nikolaus-Harnoncourt-Concentus-Musicus-Wien-Ouvertüren-Suiten-Nr-1-2/release/8569981

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A non religious work from saint Bach. Though the title of this record calls them Ouvertures (Overtures) these are generally called the orchestral suites. This is to distinguish them from the suites for solo instruments Bach has written around this time. So what is this overture doing there then?

A suite in Bach’s time is a collection of short pieces in the form of dances. The form was derived from the real dance music that was played at the French courts. In Germany this form was probably not meant to be danced on, and certainly not in Bach time. These were very fashionable pieces that retained a lot of dance quality and rhythm. And each of these suites started with a short introduction: the overture.

In Bach’s time this overture was distilled in a standard form: start with a slow but majestic opening, add a fast fugue (where two voices fight with melodies) and end the piece with a recapitulation of the main theme. Somehow this overture came to be used as the name for the whole suite.

I wrote about overtures earlier. This is not an overture to a work of drama however. This is the overture for a dance, and it is specific for the baroque age.

Beautiful performance in the historically informed way, but the recording is a bit flat. I’m hearing this as if I’m standing behind the door. A work like this played by a top rated ensemble like Harnoncourt’s should be better.

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