Partita No.1 for Keyboard

Johann Sebastian Bach

Partita No.1 for Keyboard in Bb major

BWV825 • “German Suite”

Recommended recording

Curated by Maryna Boiko, Primephonic Curator

About this work

The six Partitas (BWV 825-830) are part of Bach's Clavier-Übung, but were published singly, beginning in 1726 with this B flat major effort. A new partita appeared each year thereafter until 1731, when the whole collection was issued. Each of the six is a suite containing allemandes, sarabandes, minuets, and various other dances and numbers. The B flat major Partita consists of seven short movements, the first being a praeludium, a moderately paced piece so typical of Bach's music in its stately confidence, serene joy, and deftly wrought contrapuntal writing. There follow an allemande, corrente (courante), sarabande, and gigue which comprise the standard sequence of dances that make up a partita. Actually, Bach inserted two brief minuets between the sarabande and gigue.

The allemande is lively and brimming with thematic activity, contrapuntal elements abounding in subtle detail, the music racing by breathlessly under beams of sunshine. The corrente is a bit shorter than the two previous movements. It, too, is lively, but lighter in mood and more carefree than the allemande. The ensuing sarabande is gentle in its serenity, graceful in its slow pace, and ultimately mesmerizing in the near-transparency of its subtly crafted textures. At nearly four minutes, this is the longest of the seven movements. The two lively minuets that ensue are light and playful, the second following the first without pause. They are imaginatively wrought pieces and serve as a kind of interlude before the arrival of the gigue. Each lasts a bit under a minute. The gigue is rhythmic and fast-paced, breathless in its graceful drive and bouncy manner. It is an eventful minute-and-a-half and the perfect crown to this suite.

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