About this work
The last of Bach's suites "for the English" (but not in an English style) follows the pattern of its predecessors, a prelude introducing a series of French dances. This prelude, though, is far more extended than the others. It falls into two sections, the first (about a quarter of the piece) being a measured introduction in two voices, and the second being a faster, elaborate fugue.
The dances begin with an Allemande, whose melody includes a twisting figure that slightly recalls the prelude. Next comes a Courante, whose first two notes mimic a portion of the Allemande, although the rest of the material is quite different; fussy stair-step material in the left hand accompanies and sometimes imitates the slightly more spare right-hand melody.
The Sarabande is typically stately, and develops from a series of chords with trills that broaden out into a fuller melody. A more intricate, less chordal variation (or "double") immediately follows. Next come two bright and busy Gavottes, the first receiving an abbreviated repeat after the second, which is a Musette that imitates a droning bagpipe as well as a non-sustaining instrument like the harpsichord can. The final movement is the expected Gigue, somewhat more complex than is typically the case, with fairly thick voicing and massive left-hand trills.
Curated by Chanda VanderHart, Pianist and Musicologist