Bach on keyboards in grave keys

Bach explores the uses of melancholy, taking in a great deal of gravity, and a touch of serious sporting through his flights of counterpoint, as we hear three works he made in minor keys for keyboard instruments. The third of these is Bach’s arrangement of a Vivaldi string concerto.


Cloister Ruins at Eldena, Pomerania. Caspar David Friedrich (1825)


English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808 — Maria João Pires, piano

Prelude — Allemande — Courante — Sarabande — Gavottes I & II — Gigue

Johann Sebastian Bach composed his six “English” Suites with the harpsichord in mind, probably in Weimar in 1715 or so. The name that we know them by to-day originated in an observation made by the Bach biographer Forkel, that the works were für einen vornehmen Engländer gemacht (“composed for an Englishman of rank”).

As for the purported purism of decrying pianistic Baroque music nowadays (Are Puritans ever pure ?), history does record that the great patriarch-composer ultimately approved of some early piano models he encountered at Potsdam, that were developed and produced by the builder Gottfried Silbermann.

As with many of Bach’s suites, this English Suite No. 3 in A minor consists of an opening prelude followed by five stylised dance movements.


Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826 — Trevor Pinnock, harpsichord

Sinfonia — Allemande — Courante — Sarabande — Rondeau — Capriccio

This is the second in a set of six partitas. In 1731 they were gathered into Book I of the collection known as the Clavier-Übung (“Keyboard Practice”).


Concerto No. 2 in A minor after Vivaldi, BWV 593 — Paolo Crivellaro, organ of the Cathedral of SS. Michael and Gudula, Brussels

Allegro — Adagio — Allegro

As an exercise in transcription, Bach appropriated for solo organ this concerto along with five others like it (he was inclined to sets of six). The original is Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor for Two Violins and Basso Continuo, Op. 3, No. 8, from the volume L’Estro Armonico, RV 522.











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