Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major
BWV 1066 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Shunske Sato
Behind the music
Bach à la française
Even after the death of Louis the Fourteenth, every prince dreamed once in a while of a court like that of the Sun King. And what could be more fitting for such a court than a French Overture?
Very little instrumental music by Bach has survived. And we know virtually nothing about when, why or for whom the surviving music was written. The same applies to this suite, which is in the style and atmosphere of the dance music written by Lully at the court of Louis the Fourteenth: a series of stylised dances. Nowadays, we call this a suite, but at the time it was known as an Overture, or opening piece. As a tribute to the king, such a succession of dances began with a stately opening that had a remarkably staccato rhythm – to which the king could make his entrance – followed by a somewhat faster, fugal middle section. The instrumentation of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 1 is French as well, with oboes and a bassoon doubling the string parts.
This suite could well have been composed in Bach’s time as Kapellmeister in Köthen, where Prince Leopold must occasionally have dreamed of a court in the style of the Sun King. But this dance music was also well suited to the concerts of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig.
Looking at the dances he chose, Bach took inspiration not only from France, but also from Italy for this suite. The order is fairly standard and sometimes a bit old-fashioned, with dances that are repeated in pairs. The Gavotte, Minuet and Passepied are typically French. The Courante was popular in both France and Italy, and the Forlane originated in Italy but also became fashionable at the French court. In the end, Bach put his own mark on everything. The oboes and bassoon double the strings, but sometimes go their own way too, thus creating a sort of concerto grosso in disguise.
Orchestral Suites, BWV 1066-1069
Although it is tempting to talk of the Four Orchestral Suites, it could well be the case that Bach wrote another one or two, or even ten of them. Because unlike the ‘Brandenburg’ Concertos, these Four Orchestral Suites are not related to one another. Specialists like Joshua Rifkin even regard them as arrangements of pieces from other genres. Bach simply wrote presentable festive music for the wealthy courts of Weimar and Cöthen; occasional music that later found a new home in the repertoire of the Collegium Musicum.
Bach’s Suites (series of stylised dances) exude the style and atmosphere of the dance music written by Lully at the court of Louis the Fourteenth. Nowadays, we call this a suite, but at the time it was known as an Overture, or opening piece. As a tribute to the king, such a succession of dances began with a stately opening that had a remarkably staccato rhythm – to which the king could make his entrance – followed by a somewhat faster, fugal middle section.
One interesting hypothesis about the relative dearth of suites by Bach is that he could not master the genre sufficiently. The model came directly from the Paris of Lully and would brook no competition. Particularly the pompous overture – with its slow-quick-slow, fugal middle section and ‘French’ rhythms – is typical… and maybe too restrictive for our young German Kapellmeister.
- Overture in C major
- Orchestral Suite No. 1
- orchestral works
- Orchestral suites
- between 1717 and 1725
- Köthen? Leipzig?
- Release date
- 6 March 2015
- Recording date
- 30 November 2014
- TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht
- Violin 1
- Shunske Sato (direction), Annabelle Ferdinand, Lucia Giraudo
- Violin 2
- Anneke van Haaften (also viola), Paulien Kostense, Hanneke Wierenga
- Bernadette Verhagen, Jan Willem Vis, Femke Huizinga
- Lucia Swarts, Barbara Kernig
- Double bass
- Joshua Cheatham
- Martin Stadler, Yongcheon Shin
- Benny Aghassi
- Siebe Henstra
- Concert production
- Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters
- Zoë de Wilde, Frank van der Weij
- Film director
- Lucas van Woerkum
- Director of photography
- Sal Kroonenberg
- Ruben van den Broeke, Diderik Evers, Sal Kroonenberg
- Music recording producer
- Leo de Klerk
- Victor Jas
- Film editors
- Lucas van Woerkum, Frank van der Weij
- Score reader
- Stijn Berkouwer
- Music recording assistants
- Gilius Kreiken, Jaap van Stenis, Bobby Verbakel, Jaap Firet
- Camera assistant
- Izak de Dreu, Indy Hamid
- Music edit and mix
- Leo de Klerk, Frank van der Weij
- Music edit and mix asssistant
- Martijn Snoeren
- Rachel Stone
- Onno van Ameijde
- Bert Begeman
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