Bourrée in E minor

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J.S. Bach 'Bourree in E minor' (BWV 996)

Bourrée in E minor is a popular lute piece, the fifth movement from Suite in E minor for Lute, BWV 996 (BC L166) written by Johann Sebastian Bach between 1708 and 1717. The piece is arguably one of the most famous among guitarists.[1]

A bourrée was a type of dance that originated in France with quick duple meter and an upbeat.[2] Though the bourrée was popular as a social dance and shown in theatrical ballets during the reign of Louis XIV of France, the Bourrée in E minor was not intended for dancing.[2] Nonetheless, some of the elements of the dance are incorporated in the piece.[2]

Bach wrote his lute pieces in a traditional score rather than in lute tablature, and some believe that Bach played his lute pieces on the keyboard.[2] No original script of the Suite in E minor for Lute by Bach is known to exist.[3] However, in the collection of one of Bach's pupils, Johann Ludwig Krebs, there is one piece ("Praeludio – con la Suite da Gio: Bast. Bach") that has written "aufs Lauten Werck" ("for the lute-harpsichord") in unidentified handwriting.[3] Some argue that despite this reference, the piece was meant to be played on the lute as demonstrated by the texture.[3] Others argue that since the piece was written in E minor, it would be incompatible with the baroque lute which was tuned to D minor.[4] Nevertheless, it may be played with other string instruments, such as the guitar, mandola or mandocello, and keyboard instruments, and it is especially well-known among guitarists.[5] The tempo of the piece is fairly quick and smooth. It also demonstrates counterpoint, as the two voices move independently of one another.[1] Furthermore, the Bourrée in E minor demonstrates binary form.[6]

In classical music[edit]

Robert Schumann quotes the first 14 notes of this memorable theme (transposed to G minor) in #3 of the Op. 60, 6 Fugues on B–A–C–H, where he neatly combines it with the B A C B motif. There also appears to be an echo of this reference in the next fugue, #4.

Jethro Tull version[edit]

Single by Jethro Tull
from the album Stand Up
B-side"Fat Man"
Released13 October 1969 [7]
RecordedApril 24, 1969[8]
StudioOlympic Studios, London, UK
GenreJazz fusion
LabelChrysalis, Island, Reprise, Fontana
Songwriter(s)J.S. Bach, arr. Ian Anderson
Producer(s)Ian Anderson, Terry Ellis
Jethro Tull singles chronology
"Living in the Past"
"Sweet Dream"

Jethro Tull used the first eight bars of the piece as the basis for the song "Bourée" from their 1969 album Stand Up.[9] Alternate studio recordings appear on The Jethro Tull Christmas Album and the 25th Anniversary Box Set. It is a staple of the band's setlists, and appears on the live albums Bursting Out, A Little Light Music, Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, and Live at Montreux 2003, as well as the concert DVD Living with the Past. In April 2011, Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson played a duet version of the song with NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, who was on board the International Space Station at the time, as a celebration of 50 years of human spaceflight.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

The piece has been used by a number of musicians:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Mark Phillips; Jon Chappell (2008). Guitar Exercises for Dummies. For Dummies. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-470-38766-5.
  2. ^ a b c d Nancy Bachus; Daniel Glover (2000). The Baroque Spirit, Bk 2: Book & CD. Alfred Music Publishing. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-7390-0502-6.
  3. ^ a b c Hannu Annala; Heiki Mätlik (2008). Handbook of Guitar and Lute Composers. Mel Bay Publications. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7866-5844-2.
  4. ^ Johann Sebastian Bach; Jozsef Eotvos (2002). J. S. Bach: The Complete Lute Works. Mel Bay Publications. p. vi. ISBN 978-0-7866-6819-9.
  5. ^ Elizabeth T. Knuth. "Bourrée". Archived from the original on 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  6. ^ Bill Purse (2003). The PrintMusic! primer: mastering the art of music notation with Finale PrintMusic!. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-87930-754-7.
  7. ^ "Jethro Tull singles".
  8. ^ Rabey, Brian (15 September 2013). A Passion Play: The Story of Ian Anderson & Jethro Tull. London: SoundCheck Books. p. 52. ISBN 978-0957144248.
  9. ^ Jethro Tull, Scott Allen Nollen, Ian Anderson (McFarland, 2001) Page 47
  10. ^ Stephanie Schierholz (2011-04-12). "NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson Perform First Space-Earth Flute Duet". Archived from the original on 2017-11-12. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Bass Player. "He Can Work It Out". Archived from the original on 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  13. ^ Songfacts. "Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin". Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  14. ^ Kickass Classical. "The Most Popular Classical Music". Archived from the original on 2006-04-02. Retrieved 2007-12-18.
  15. ^ Chordie. "Bachs Bouree by Yngwie Malmsteen". Archived from the original on 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2007-12-18.

External links[edit]