English Suite No. 6 in D minor, BWV 811
Johann Sebastian Bach
It is striking that a program which begins in the late 18th century, then moves to the early 20th century before looking back to the 19th century, would conclude with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Striking, perhaps unconventional, but fitting.
The title “English” Suite is a misnomer. Bach’s early biographer Forkel suggested that the six suites were composed for “an Englishman of rank,” and though there has been no corroboration of this assertion, the name has stuck. Simply, these are dance suites with a prelude, and they follow the traditional Baroque sequence of international dances: allemande (Germany), courante (France), sarabande (Spain), and gigue (England/Ireland), with an interpolated penultimate gavotte (France).
The English Suite No. 6 opens with a particularly grand Prelude in two parts, the first an improvisatory flourish and the second a rapid fugal Allegro. A stately Allemande and darting Courante lead to the majestic Sarabande with double (an ornamented elaboration of the Sarabande itself). Gavottes I and II are played in sequence, with Gavotte II followed by a repeat of Gavotte I. The graceful poise of the Gavottes leaves the listener un-prepared for the ferocious whirl of the concluding Gigue.
- Annotator Grant Hiroshima is the executive director of a private foundation and the former director of Information Technology for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.