Bach English Suite 4 Analysis Essay

Book Description:

Fugue for J. S. Bach was a natural language; he wrote fugues in organ toccatas and voluntaries, in masses and motets, in orchestral and chamber music, and even in his sonatas for violin solo. The more intimate fugues he wrote for keyboard are among the greatest, most influential, and best-loved works in all of Western music. They have long been the foundation of the keyboard repertory, played by beginning students and world-famous virtuosi alike. In a series of elegantly written essays, eminent musicologist Joseph Kerman discusses his favorite Bach keyboard fugues-some of them among the best-known fugues and others much less familiar. Kerman skillfully, at times playfully, reveals the inner workings of these pieces, linking the form of the fugues with their many different characters and expressive qualities, and illuminating what makes them particularly beautiful, powerful, and moving. These witty, insightful pieces, addressed to musical amateurs as well as to specialists and students, are beautifully augmented by a CD with new performances made specially for this volume. In addition to the complete scores for all the music discussed in the book, the CD features Karen Rosenak, piano, playing two preludes and fugues fromTheWell-Tempered Clavier-C Major, book 1; and B Major, book 2-and recordings by Davitt Moroney of the Fughetta in C Major, BWV 952, on clavichord; the Fugue on "Jesus Christus unser Heiland," BWV 689, on organ; and the Fantasy and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 904, on harpsichord.

eISBN: 978-0-520-94139-7

Subjects: Music

The English Suite No 4 in F major, BWV809 immediately establishes a positive, bright, assertive colour in the opening Prelude which is also very orchestral in character. The episode which begins in bar 20 is very similar to material presented by the harpsichord soloist in the opening movement of his Brandenburg Concerto No 5. Likewise, the theme that first appears in bar 28 is a direct quote from the B flat minor Prelude of the second book of the Well-Tempered Clavier (written much later), although in a totally different mood. The indication vitement was added to some copies, most likely to prevent the player from taking too slow a tempo rather than adopting a very quick one. The length of the final chord (only a crotchet) should be observed.

The sunny flavour of this suite continues in the Allemande with its groups of triplets that lighten the mood. Here the similarity is to the same dance in the Partita No 5 in G major. What a nice contrast it is to the other Allemandes of the set! There are, nevertheless, tinges of darkness towards the end of each section which add a bit of spice. After another French Courante which continues in the same happy mood, comes a Sarabande of pure delight. Compared to the ones we have already encountered, it looks bare on the page, and there are no variants left by Bach. It is up to the performer, therefore, to do his own, as it can’t possibly be left that way. The chromatic bass that moves upwards four bars from the end is especially beautiful. This Sarabande provides the suite with a moment of complete repose. The only pair of minuets in the English Suites now follows, and both are very melodic and full of the grace and good manners associated with this dance. The second is in D minor, contrasting nicely with the first. To end the work, Bach writes a Giga di caccia imitating hunting horns in the highest of spirits, bringing it all to a joyful conclusion.

from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2003

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