Partita no. 1 in B major

Partita no. 1 in B major

BWV 825 performed by Mark Edwards
Philharmonie, Haarlem

  • Menu
  • 1. Praeludium
  • 2. Allemande
  • 3. Corrente
  • 4. Sarabande
  • 5. Menuet I
  • 6. Menuet II
  • 6. Giga

Behind the music


Advanced keyboard technique

It was already clear in the eighteenth century: Bach made high demands on the keyboard player

This first partita in Bach’s series of six keyboard partitas appeared in print in 1726. The rest followed in subsequent years and the complete set of six was reprinted in 1731. As early as 1739, music connoisseur Lorenz Christoph Mizler wrote in a review of the repeatedly reprinted organ method, the Wegweiser for “the art of playing the organ correctly”, that “he who cannot move his fingers better than this will scarcely be able to learn to play the Partitas for the clavier by our famous Herr Bach of Leipzig”. This remark says something about the basic standard aimed at in this method in Mizler’s review, but also about Bach’s partitas.

The Partita in B-flat major immediately lives up to that reputation of above average ‘finger movements’. It becomes apparent in the Praeludium, when the theme we hear at the beginning in the upper part then appears in the left hand with trills and all. And there is something in every movement where a mediocre or careless keyboard player might mess up the fingering. Sometimes it simply concerns a stream of fast arpeggios and leaps in both hands, as in the Corrente. In the slow Sarabande, the challenge lies more in the elegant phrasing of the ornaments and flourishes that are in full view, due to the sparing accompaniment. One small mistake is immediately noticeable.

When the keyboard player then arrives at the two minuets, it appears that the worst of the danger is over, as here Bach does not demand particularly difficult struggles for the fingers. But it was not without reason that Mizler took the partitas as an example. The Gigue that closes the first partita is a tour de force of keyboard technique, which was unparalleled in Bach’s day. With the right hand continually jumping over the left hand, here it is not just the fingers in motion, but the whole hand!

Partita no. 1 in B major
harpsichord works
Clavier-Übung I, II, IV, Six keyboard partitas
ca. 1725-1731
Special notes
Bach dedicated this first partita in the set of six keyboard partitas to Emanuel Ludwig, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, who was born on 29 November 1694

With support from

Andrew S. Lim

Extra videos

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    26 May 2022
  • Recording date
    3 June 2021
  • Location
    Philharmonie, Haarlem
  • Harpsichordist
    Mark Edwards
  • Harpsichord
    Bruce Kennedy, 1989 after Michael Mietke
  • Director, camera
    Robin van Erven Dorens
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Onno van der Wal
  • Lights
    Ernst-Jan Thieme
  • Best boy
    Jordi Kooij
  • Data handling
    Stefan Ebels
  • Assistant music recording
    Marloes Biermans
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • With support from
    Andrew S. Lim

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