Partita No.5 for Keyboard

Johann Sebastian Bach

Partita No.5 for Keyboard in G major

BWV829 • “German Suite”

About this work

This partita is probably the briefest of the six in the set, though Nos. 1 and 3 are also slight works, and in a given performance, with repeats observed in one piece and ignored in another, may have a marginally shorter timing. That said, the diminutive fifth is a fine work even if it lacks the grander scales of the D major fourth and E minor sixth. Comprised of the usual seven movements and featuring the more or less requisite Allemande, Courante (the Italian Corrente here), Sarabande, and Gigue, it is a light, buoyant work of such brilliance and subtlety as to stand alongside its more grandiose siblings.

The opening Praeambulum ripples with buoyancy and joy as notes cascade seemingly in all directions with breathless energy. The music here has been called Haydnesque, and while it may augur that master's style, it is still pure Bach in all his inventive genius. The ensuing Allemande, by contrast, is subdued and playful, delightfully graceful, too, in its moderate pacing. The brief Courante bustles with the same kind of energy heard in the Praeambulum, but ultimately divulges a somewhat more subdued character.

The Sarabande follows, a serene yet at times playful piece whose relatively lengthy duration and gentleness are a sort of island of restraint amid all the bustle and brightness surrounding it. The music is quite transparent here in its slow pacing, thus allowing Bach's deft contrapuntal writing to emerge in all its subtlety. The ensuing Tempo di Minuetto is light and graceful, full of energy right up to its suddenly subdued close. A hearty Passepied follows, introducing a sort of muscular manner, with much writing in the middle and lower registers.

As usual a Gigue closes this work, bringing energy and a sense of near-ecstasy in its joy. Here, the contrapuntal writing is full of subtle details, the ear noticing something delightfully different on each subsequent hearing. Moreover, this colorful music is quite a virtuosic challenge to the performer, the fugue-like section midway through especially taxing the fingers.

Done