Overture in the French style, BWV 831
The Overture in the French style, BWV 831, original title Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art, also known as the French Overture and published as the second half of Clavier-Übung II in 1735 (along with the Italian Concerto), is a suite in B minor for two-manual harpsichord written by Johann Sebastian Bach. An earlier version of this work exists, in the key of C minor (BWV 831a)
The term 'Overture' refers to the fact that this suite starts with an Ouverture movement, and was a common generic name for French suites (his orchestral suites were similarly named). This suite is unlike Bach's other keyboard suites in that it has no Allemande. Also, there are optional dance movements both before and after the Sarabande. Usually, the optional movements only occur after the Sarabande. All three of the optional dance movements are presented in pairs, with the first one repeated (without internal repeats) after the second. Also unusual is the inclusion of an extra movement after the Gigue. This is an "Echo", a piece meant to exploit the terraced loud and soft dynamics of the two-manual harpsichord. Other movements also have dynamic indications ("piano" and "forte"), which are not often found in keyboard suites of the Baroque period. The Overture is the longest keyboard suite movement ever composed by Bach; it usually has a duration of 30-31 minutes if all the repeats are taken.
The style of this work refers to composers like François Couperin who had published compositions in this suite format. Such suites had been composed for both solo instruments and for orchestral settings. Bach's composition, though a work for solo harpsichord, employs a fuller sound than was customary for the French composers to whom he referred.
Notes and references
- French Overture: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Recording by pianist Ido Bar-Shai (archived on the Wayback Machine)
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