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]

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The piece is played and referenced in the Bad Moon Rising episode of The West Wing
  • The melody is played toward the end of the 2000 movie Battle Royale, heralding the arena's climactic battles.
  • 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.
  • The Evil Within (2014) features this music when the protagonist is captured by a monster in Chapter 1.
  • 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.
  • Famously performed on the Moog Synthesizer by Wendy Carlos on her Grammy Award Winning album Switched On Bach in 1968 -ESD 81602
  • Air on the G String has always been used as the theme song for the various programs Italian documentary (like Quark) conducted by journalist Piero Angela.


  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. ^

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]

Audio clips[edit]