Suite in A minor
BWV 513 performed by Menno van Delft
at the Bartolotti House, Amsterdam
Behind the music
From the living room out into the world.
In his essay on playing keyboard instruments, Johann Sebastian’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel also wrote about the clavichord. The large wing-shaped harpsichord was “usually used for loud music”, whereas the clavichord was for “playing alone”. One of the characteristics of a good clavichord was that it should allow people “both to press the keys firmly and to stroke them, so as to produce all sorts of forte and piano sounds clearly and distinctly”.
The origins of this Suite in A minor lie in “playing alone” in a homely setting, as it is the opening work of the second book of music Bach compiled for his wife Anna Magdalena, in 1725. It is the ideal context for a clavichord. The music itself is also looser in form than usual. Not only does the work begin with a Fantasia, but later on there is an unusual Burlesca (from the Italian bulare: making fun of, mocking), with big leaps for the left hand, which is followed by a Scherzo (from the Italian scherzare: fooling around, joking). So, light-hearted fun for at home.
Later, the Suite in A minor, BWV 827, was published as the third of Bach’s set of six partitas (another word for suites). The second and third partita had already been announced in an advertisement in a Leipzig newspaper, in September 1727. Copies could be bought not just from Bach himself, but also from fellow musicians in Dresden, Halle, Lüneburg, Wolfenbüttel, Neurenberg and Augsburg. So it was not just music for his own living room, but also work he wanted to present to the wider world.
Thanks to modern recording technology, the clavichord has gained a new role. Menno van Delft – performing in Huis Bartolotti with no audience – can play as softly as he wants and still reach a wide audience. So although the clavichord may still be mainly for “playing alone”, nowadays we can all listen in from our own living rooms.
- Suite (Partita) in A minor
- harpsichord works
- Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach, Clavier-Übung I, II, IV
- 1725-1731 (but earlier, as it is in Notenbüchlein)
- Release date
- 7 October 2021
- Recording date
- 12 May 2018
- Bartolotti House, Amsterdam
- Menno van Delft
- Director, camera and lights
- Gijs Besseling
- Music recording
- Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
- Music edit and mix
- Guido Tichelman
- Camera, lights
- Nina Badoux
- Camera and lighting assistant
- Eline Eestermans
- Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
- Jessie Verbrugh
- Supported by
- Stichting Elise Mathilde Fonds
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