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Bach’s Cantata BWV 35, Geist und Seele wird verwirret (Soul and spirit become confused), is one of three alto solo works in Trinity Time of the third annual church cycle of 1726-27 that has an old established and much used text of Georg Christian Lehms. It employs obbligato organ in “conversational galant” manner and has two arias in dance style siciliano and menuet. Its origin and genesis derives from much earlier borrowed instrumental concertos and sonatas in Köthen and Weimar. Questions remain. Just how many of the movements are based on preexisting works? Why does Cantata 35 have two instrumental sinfonias introducing the two parts, performed before and after the sermon (a rare Bach form in Trinity Time)? Was the unfigured organ part for his adolescent first son Emmanuel or for himself? Was Bach motivated to compose so many solo cantatas in the third cycle because he lacked competent resources or was he returning to the Italian style, without biblical dictum and sometimes closing four-part chorales
The four orchestral suites (called ouvertures by their author), BWV 1066–1069 are four suites by Johann Sebastian Bach. The name ouverture refers only in part to the opening movement in the style of the French overture, in which a majestic opening section in relatively slow dotted-note rhythm in duple meter is followed by a fast fugal section, then rounded off with a short recapitulation of the opening music.
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067
Dancing was very popular during the Baroque era (of course, the same could be said for all eras, including the present). And dance music often inspired composers, not the least of whom was Bach. Although the influence of dance is most obvious in his suites for keyboard and suites for orchestra, dance-like gestures and forms are present in Bach’s works of every genre, including some of his sacred choral music.
But here we really are only concerned about the dance and his orchestral suites. In this case, composers like Bach and Handel wrote what was called “stylized dances,” which were intended for listening, not for dancing. This mean that the dances followed their particular stylistic norms, but allowed for more musical elaboration and ornamentation than would have been possible in a floor dance.
The orchestral suites of Bach all use traditional French dances. (Bach wrote several French suites and several English suites for keyboard.) The dance suite in fact traces its origin to the early Baroque period in France, most notably in the keyboard works of the celebrated harpsichordist/organist/composer/teacher François Couperin (1668-1733)
Badinerie – The badinerie is a favorite movement in the suite, perhaps because it is so lively, perhaps because it is so delightful to watch the flautist perform this piece. Finally, Bach really features the solo flute. Yes, of course, we hear the solo flute in the double, but this is entirely different in character. it is energetic…playful…virtuosic…perpetual motion…just plain fun. The badinerie is a relatively rare dance movement, and this is by far the best-known example of this genre. It rarely appears outside 18th-century suites, and is generally defined merely as a “dancelike piece of jocose character” (Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music).
Did you want to listen to the entire Suite?
The Orchestral suite in B minor is scored for strings, continuo, and solo flute. It contains eight movements, each described below.
Overture [Bach did not label this movement]
Though Bach did not provide a designation for this movement, it is clearly written in French overture style. Bach used the French overture design to open all four of his orchestral suites. A French overture, developed by Lully in the 1650s and 1660s, is a two-part movement which opens with a slow, dotted rhythm section leading to a faster imitative section. The slow section may or may not return to close the movement. (In this suite, the slow part does indeed return at the end.) The convention in the dotted-rhythm section is to “double-dot” the rhythms, making the shorter notes shorter still, and giving them more “snap”.
A rondeau in the Baroque refers to any piece that consists of a refrain (A) and different “couplets”, which were 8- to 16-measure contrasting strains. The “couplets” might be in related keys, or remain in the original tonic. This form later developed into the rondo, so popular in the time of Mozart. In this rondeau by Bach the main theme appears as follows:
What’s interesting about this movement is that it fuses two separate genres (or, if you prefer, two clearly different conventions) into one movement. The rondeau is obvious in the repetition of the melody given above. Using A to indicate this refrain, and the subsequent letters of the alphabet for each new couplet, we find the following form: A(repeated) B A C A. But at the same time, notice that each phrase (the one above serves well as an example) begins in the middle of a measure, and ends in the middle – the phrasing is two beats “off”. This kind of phrase structure is typical of the gavotte, a moderate-tempo dance in 4/4 or cute time (as in the excerpt above).
The sarabande has always been a favorite of the Baroque stylized dances, perhaps because Bach wrote so many lovely examples. (The sarabande from the French Suite in d minor for keyboard is one of the most hauntingly beautiful, plaintive examples out there.) Interestingly enough, though the sarabande is often included in French dance suites, its origin is Spanish, perhaps coming to Spain from Mexico in the 16th century.
The sarabande is a slow, dignified dance in triple meter. In contrast to the gavotte, the sarabande rarely uses an upbeat (although this example does). Frequently, the second beat receives an accent, sometimes by virtue of the placement of a longer note value on the second beat. Phrases tend to have “feminine” endings, that is, with the resolution to the tonic chord occurring off the downbeat, though that is not the case in this example. In this movement the flute doubles the first violin part throughout, and thus reduces this movement to a more intimate four-part texture. This intimate texture is hardly simple, however, as Bach writes very busy lines for all four parts.
Bourrée I & II
The bourrée was a French dance in quick duple meter, usually with a single upbeat. In this suite, Bach uses two bourrées in a da capo format. Each is a complete binary movement (a movement in two distinct sections, each repeated), but after the second is completed, Bach writes “Bourrée I da Capo”, indicated that the first is to be played again. Typically, the repeats are omitted on the da capo. Da capo form was very common in arias of the Baroque, and many examples can be found among the vocal works of Bach, Handel, and, most notably, Alesandro Scarlatti, who is generally associated strongly with the format. This ABA form carried over in subsequent eras, and is commonly linked with the minuet and trio during the Viennese Classical era.
Polonaise and Double
Pianists often immediately associate Fryderik Chopin (1810-1849) when they hear the word “polonaise”. Indeed, the polonaise is one of the many Polish-national forms and genres Chopin used in his piano compositions. But clearly the polonaise was known before Chopin emerged on the concert scene, else Bach would not have known of it. The polonaise is a stately, festive dance, always in triple meter. Often, the polonaise employed repeated rhythmic figures, as Bach does here with many dotted rhythms in each measure. The term double referred to a type of variation, usually composed mostly of embellishments. In this case, the double employs the main theme of the polonaise, though it is banished to the continuo line, while the flute plays an ornate variation over-top. Thus, this is the barest movement, in terms of scoring, in the Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor. As in the bourrées, the double is followed by a da capo indication, and the polonaise, sans repeats, is heard once more.
The minuet (or “menuet”) is again a binary movement, though not with a da capo, as we expect of the minuet in the later eighteenth century. it is another triple-meter movement, grateful, moderate in tempo, and simple in texture.
Badinerie – See above.
Bach works his calculated magic once again.
So when we learn that the Concerto for keyboard No. 3 in D minor, BWV 974, is based on an oboe concerto composed by Alessandro Marcello, it seems most curious — Marcello was not the skilled, stylish, and innovative composer Vivaldi was, nor was he the nephew of Bach‘s employer, as was young Duke Johann Ernst. And the fact of the matter is that, though Marcello had a certain influence in Italian music circles, he was not really a particularly fine composer (he was as much mathematician as musician), and, unlike Vivaldi, cannot be said to have exerted any real influence on Bach. One is therefore tempted to speculate that Bach chose to transcribe the Marcello oboe concerto perhaps even just to test his own skill — with an inferior source, his adaptive acumen would have to be all the sharper. And as he was not at all averse to altering Vivaldi‘s music when making the transcriptions, imagine how much more willing he would be to edit, refine, and rewrite the music of a really second-rate composer!
The Marcello-Bach concerto is in the usual three movements of an Italian instrumental concerto. Here they are: 1. unmarked (Allegro assumed), 2. Adagio, 3. Presto. The shell of the first movement is very clearly Marcello’s work; but Bach is quick to thicken the lean, open textures of the original — at the center of the movement things grow very dense indeed, with imitative, hand-against-hand sixteenth notes building up to eight-voice chords. The Adagio has a limber solo line atop steady eighth notes, while the Presto finale is a 3/8 time romp in near-continuous sixteenth notes, and almost exclusively in two contrapuntal voices.
Well, with a neat visualization of how the bowing on this particular piece works a master work becomes even more interesting. :)
“It is common practice in the drafting of the oboe concerto by Alessandro Marcello, resorting in the second set on a decorated version of Johann Sebastian Bach. This comes from BWV 974 and provides an Italian of 16 edits concertos for harpsichord solo, which fall Bach anfertigte to 1713th
In studying the harpsichord version is noted that Bach not only the Oboe (and this not only in the slow movement) changed, but partially massively intervened in the accompaniment in the original work.
Some detail changes are solely due to the instrumentation, for example, Trill on long notes, chords, and the omission of the most repeated phrases that are played by the violins in the original one by the oboe and again.
Of course, the retransmission of the harpsichord version in the original cast, the risk of generating instrument specifically atypical phrases harbors. The insight into Bach’s employment with Italian music, its exact notation of ornaments otherwise usually free running and the mastery with which he has enriched with small interventions the composition, that risk is worth it.”
Bach, Chaconne from Partita for Violin No. 2, BWV 1004, arranged by Brahms for left hand piano: The Chaconne is the fifth movement of Bach’s Partita in D Minor for Unaccompanied Violin, written between 1717-1723 (ages 32-38), while Bach was in the service of Prince Leopold in Cöthen. Joshua Bell has said that the Chaconne is “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect.” Brahms knew and loved the music of Bach at a time that it was mainly of historical interest. His respect for Bach’s Chaconne was reverential: “The Chaconne is in my opinion one of the most wonderful and incomprehensible pieces of music. Using the technique adapted to a small instrument, [Bach] writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings.” In 1877 (age 44), when his close friend Clara Schumann injured her right hand, Brahms arranged Bach’s Chaconne for left-hand piano. Brahms told Clara Schumann that, only by arranging the work this way could he understand the technical difficulties faced by a violin soloist.
Another deceptively simple looking pieces from the Master. I’ve tackled this one and well, it still has the best of me. That chromatic transition at the end of the A section is just death, let me assure you. :)