Air on the G String

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1920 recording, performed by Joel Belov (violin) and Robert Gayler (piano)

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Air on the G String is August Wilhelmj's arrangement of the second movement in Johann Sebastian Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068.


A 21-piece string orchestra arrangement by the United States Air Force Band Strings of BWV1068.

Performed by
Alexander Jablokov (violin)
Takako Nishizaki (violin)
Capella Istropolitana
Oliver Dohnanyi (Conductor)
Courtesy of NAXOS

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The original orchestral suite was generally believed to have been written by Bach for his patron Prince Leopold of Anhalt some time between the years 1717 and 1723. However, the oldest surviving score is later, dating from Bach's time in Leipzig. Current thinking is that the suite may well have been written in that city for performance by the collegium musicum.[1]

The title comes from violinist August Wilhelmj's late 19th century arrangement of the piece for violin and piano. By transposing the key of the piece from its original D major to C major and transposing the melody down an octave, Wilhelmj was able to play the piece on only one string of his violin, the G string.

Later, a spurious story was put about that the melody was always intended to be played on the G string alone.[2]


The Air on the G String was one of the first works by Bach ever to be recorded. This was by the Russian cellist Aleksandr Verzhbilovich and an unknown pianist, in 1902 (as the Air from the Overture No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068).[3][4]

In popular culture[edit]

  • It was used in UK adverts for Hamlet cigars, played usually on piano.
  • The song was played in the mental institution in Halloween.
  • Part of Air on the G String's melody was incorporated into Procol Harum's celebrated 1967 Worldwide hit, A Whiter Shade of Pale.
  • In 1969 the popular Dutch classic symphonic rock band Ekseption (page in Dutch) recorded Air in a modern arrangement.
  • A version titled 'Air' was performed by Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion, and was featured in the 2004 American crime thriller Collateral starring Tom Cruise.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) featured Air on the G String when villain Karl Stromberg fed his treacherous secretary to a shark.
  • A nearly full rendition of this piece was featured during the late-night library scene in the movie Seven, when Morgan Freeman's character Detective Somerset was allowed into the library by the night watch crew who played this music while playing poker.
  • The End of Evangelion (1997) featured Air on the G String during a climactic battle between Asuka Langley Soryu and organization Seele's Mass Production Evangelion units. The first half of the movie is also named "Air" after the piece.
  • Sweetbox's Everything's Gonna Be Alright (1997) utilizes Air on G String in the background.
  • The piece is played and referenced in the Bad Moon Rising episode of The West Wing
  • Battle Royale
  • The piece is featured in the horror video game The Evil Within.
  • Enter The Void uses the piece as a theme for Paz De La Huerta's character Linda.
  • Autumn's Concerto (2009) features this piece as Ren Guang Xi's father legacy.
  • BioShock Infinite (2013) features Air on the G String in the building of the Fraternal Order of the Raven.
  • Yngwie Malmsteen covered the song on his 2002 album Attack!!.
  • The song forms a strong basis in the Eroge, "Devil on the G-String", as noted in the title. It features a remix of it and several other classical songs.
  • A music box remix is used as the church music in the video game Little King's Story.
  • Fairy Tail uses the piece for the character Juvia.
  • Hyōka uses this piece on some episodes.
  • CSI:NY used this piece in one episode.
  • Sea of Monsters - track on Yellow Submarine (album) by The Beatles
  • Moonlight Mile (manga): Goro's ringtone.
  • The video game Sleeping Dogs (2012) includes the song in the in-game classical radio station Boosey & Hawkes.
  • It was used as the opening theme for the popular scientific program Quark, on Italian TV.
  • The video game Gran Turismo 4 and Gran Turismo 5 has one of the soundtracks
  • in the 2007 School Days anime, the bloody finale was replaced on air with a boat and scenery clip with air on the g string playing in the background. The finale was cancelled because of murders in the region a few days before it aired.
  • Hearts of Iron - track on Heroes (Sabaton album) by Sabaton (band)
  • Famously performed on the Moog Synthesizer by Wendy Carlos on her Grammy Award Winning album Switched On Bach in 1968 -ESD 81602
  • It was used in the eighth episode of the second season of Arrow (TV series): The scientist and also the third season of West Wing (TV series)
  • It was used by Sony in a TV commercial for the PlayStation 2[5]


  1. ^ "Bach's orchestral suites (review)". 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th edition, 1954, Vol. IX, p. 298, Wilhelmj, August
  3. ^ Bach Cantatas
  4. ^
  5. ^ "PlayStation 2 advert: Multispeed - #20YearsOfPlay". SCEI. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]

Audio clips[edit]