Talk:French Suites (Bach)

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BWV 814[edit]

Wasn't the Menuet the song, that was played as "Theme C" in the game Tetris? --GenosseBarit (talk) 14:02, 31 March 2010 (UTC)


I am not happy with the quotation. It is too long, seems arbitrary and rather neophyte, and adds little to the actual article. Eusebeus 15:39, 28 April 2006 (UTC)

I have removed it since there have been no objections. Eusebeus 22:52, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Lengthy essay[edit]

In late March, a set of lengthy edits were made to several of the Bach keyboard pages. They were subsequently removed by the author in a snit after wikify tags were placed but were later restored. I feel the content is excessive for the article as it stands and needs to be slimmed down, wikified, chopped at, sourced, etc etc etc. Until it is more germane to an article on the French Suites, I am moving it here. The prolix intro can be excised altogether. The tidbits about the copyists is interesting but can be abbreviated. And the whole thing needs to be properly sourced, of course. I am surprised that Mr. Baxendale's university essay does not contain any notes; if any editor wishes to restore the material (or part of it), I strongly suggest that citations be provided, particularly for the claims that, as it stands below, flirt with WP:OR. Eusebeus 13:42, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

Whilst the chamber music of Bach’s Cöthen days was written mainly for members of Prince Leopold’s collegium musicum, his keyboard music was composed largely for either dissemination amongst his immediate family or as support material for his activities as a teacher. The two are not easily separable, since not only did Bach’s wife and children count amongst his pupils, but his private students often lived as members of his household. In 1719, Bach compiled an anthology to instruct his nine year old son, Wilhelm Friedemann, in the art of good keyboard style and composition. Known as the Clavier-Büchlein vor Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, it contains not only a sound progression of keyboard pieces, but also explanations of clefs, fingering and, importantly, ornaments, which is still valued amongst musicians and scholars to this day. Similarly, Bach compiled the Clavier-Büchlein vor Anna Magdalena Bach (hereafter referred to as JSB) shortly after their wedding on 3 December 1721. Intended for Anna Magdalena’s instruction, it contains autographs of the first five of six suites that have subsequently become known as the French Suites (BWV 812-817). Although the title is probably not Bach’s, since it is not used in connexion with either the autograph or any of the copies made during his lifetime, by the turn of the nineteenth century it seems to have become firmly established. An explanation for this was provided by Bach’s biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel who, in 1802, stated that they were ‘written in the French taste’. His rationale is unconvincing: by the time Bach was resident at Cöthen, he was more than familiar with the French style and, had he decided to write suites in the same genre, he would probably have adopted a more suitable format, perhaps similar to the one he used five years previously with the so-called [English Suites] (BWV 807-812). It is perhaps with regard to the latter, however, that the epithet came into being, since their designation would, at least, allow some form of differentiation between the two collections. Unlike The Well-tempered Clavier (WTC), there seems to be no fair copy of the collection as a whole, and although the autograph was revised over the course of a number of years, no definitive version exists. With the exception of the first and fourth suites, which seem to be fair copies of works of an earlier provenance, the remainder appear to have been composed at the time of their entry into the book. Suites 1 – 4 were entered gradually through the course of 1722, but of the fifth, only a fragment of the Allemande dates from this period; possibly the result of Bach’s move to Leipzig in April 1723, its completion did not occur for another year and a half. Since at least one third of the JSB is now lost, it is important to determine if the missing portion contained the sixth suite, since on both technical and musical levels, it seems to be somewhat disparate from its precedents. This seems rather at odds with the nature of the collection, and evidence suggests its inclusion was more the result of misassociation than design. Initially, it is worth noting that the collection, as it stands in JSB, is somewhat unbalanced, especially when considering that Bach, following well-established conventions, normally produced collections of six (e.g. the organ trio sonatas, the Partitas, Brandenburg Concertos etc.). Therefore, it would have been unusual had he not finished this collection with a finial work. However, the remaining portion of the book takes the guise of incomplete compositions, drafts, minuets or copies of short pieces by other composers. This includes two fragments, the c minor organ Fantasia (BWV 573) and the Air (BWV 991) that immediately follow the suites, implying that, for Bach, at least, the manuscript book had served its initial purpose. The reason for this might be simpler than expected: despite being highly musical, Anna Magdalena’s formal lessons with Bach probably came to an end. It has been shown that their move to Leipzig interrupted the composition of the suites in JSB, and the new Cantor’s responsibilities, coupled with the ensuing increase in the size of the Bach family (between 1723 and 1728, five children were born), must have resulted in Anna Magdalena’s role changing considerably. Thus, it is likely that Bach planned the manuscript to contain six suites, which, due to a number of external reasons, he failed to complete. At this point the manuscript took another function. Instead, a sixth suite has become appended to the collection, mainly through collations made by a number of Bach’s pupils; it is important, therefore, to establish whether the suite, as it comes down to us, was planned by Bach to cap the collection, or whether his intentions were different. The earliest, in the hand of one who, when considering his reputation as a faithful copyist, has been given the somewhat ignominious designation 'Anon 5,' seems to date from the early 1720s; his collection contains the first four of the suites. A second source, from perhaps as early as 1724 and in the hand of Johann Caspar Vogler, contains five. His copy is muddled: the third suite and the Loure from the fifth are missing altogether, and movements in the second and sixth suites are transposed into a different order. A collection of eight suites copied by Heinrich Nicolaus Gerber constitutes the third source. It is reported by Gerber’s son that his father studied these after he had completed the Inventions and Sinfonias and before he began The Well-tempered Clavier. Since he finished copying the former in January 1725, and began copying out the latter the following November, it would be logical to assume that the suites were copied at some point between these dates. Gerber complicates matters, however, since his version of the sixth suite includes a prelude and an additional movement in the guise of a minuet. In this respect, Gerber’s copy bears a closer resemblance to the format of the English Suites than to this collection. Apart from that, both Vogler and Gerber appear to have used similar source material for the sixth suite. A copy in the hand of Anna Magdalena Bach, which shows a close relationship with Vogler, dates from approximately 1725. Although it contains a fair copy of only the first two suites, the remaining space in the book suggests that she intended to include the next three. Bach’s son-in-law, Johann Christoph Altnickol provides the final source. His copy contains all six suites and dates from the period between c. 1744, when he began his studies with Bach, and 1759, the year of his death. Collation with the autograph reveals a large number of variants, many of which point to a source that predates JSB, perhaps to original sketches. This becomes complicated, however, when considering the fifth suite, since that of the autograph seems to be a first draft. Similarly, the text of the sixth suite appears to use a text that contains none of the revisions found in Vogler and Gerber, suggesting that this text also predates the others. The evidence provided by the sources needs a little further discussion. Gerber’s version of the sixth suite includes two extra movements: the Prelude bears close similarities to the Gigue of the suite, particularly where the main theme is inverted, which suggests a link between the two. Further to this, it is the same as one contained in two other sources: a prelude in Wilhelm Friedemann’s book, and the E major Prelude in the first book of WTC. Since Vogler has proved himself to be an inaccurate copyist, there is the possibility that their source contained the prelude and minuet, which Vogler omitted to make the suite more compatible with the remainder of the collection. However, in light of the source provided by Altnickol, this becomes unlikely. Instead, we must consider that the movements’ inclusion was more the result of an æsthetic decision by Gerber than an error on the part of Vogler, and that the similarities between the Prelude and the Gigue are coincidental. However, it is important to note that all three scribes include other suites in their manuscripts: BWV 818, in a minor, and BWV 819, in E-flat major. Anon adds each between Suites 4 and 5; Vogler includes BWV 819 in last place; Gerber includes both, placing them second and third in his manuscript. Given that the content of the two suites is not dissimilar to those of the autograph, and that disparities arise between their versions of the remaining suites and JSB, it must be concluded that theirs came from a number of sources and suggests that their collations had neither the same intention, nor function, as Bach’s initial compilation. Anna Magdalena’s copy is also revealing. Her manuscript demonstrates that she intended to make a fair copy of the suites, possibly to produce a keepsake copy without the ephemeral material found in JSB. However, her copy shows considerable deviation from Bach’s text, and the relationships between this and Vogler suggests her source was also an intermediary one, perhaps containing revisions to the original. What is certain, however, is that she had no intention of copying the sixth. Altnickol’s copy is the only one that contains all six suites in the order that they have come down to us, and evidence provided by the earlier sources suggests that the inclusion of the sixth was his decision. If he knew of the other two suites, the only possible reasons for choosing the E major suite would be the simplicity of BWV 818, which is predominantly two-part throughout, and the key of BWV 819, which had already been used earlier in the collection. None of this is provides a conclusive argument for the inclusion of the sixth suite into the collection, since despite its concise architecture and inherent beauty, it remains somewhat detached from the original intentions of the collection. It is important to consider that, with the exception of the first and fourth, which appear to be fair copies, the remainder of the suites appear to have been composed at the time of their entry into JSB. Thus, in all probability, Bach intended to do the same for a sixth, and although the individual suites, as they appear, are complete, the collection as found in JSB remains as much a fragment of Bach’s original plan as the unfinished organ fantasia that follows. (The above has been contributed from a longer, original article by Jon Baxendale)

Requested move 1 September 2015[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: not moved. Bizarre situation but here we are. Jenks24 (talk) 10:26, 17 September 2015 (UTC)

French Suites (Bach)French Suites – There are no other French Suites of comparable notability. Ioannes Pragensis (talk) 19:09, 1 September 2015 (UTC) Relisted. Jenks24 (talk) 01:59, 9 September 2015 (UTC)

  • Oppose Dieupart and many others also wrote French suites. This isn't a pop song where editors have to compete for top spot. In ictu oculi (talk) 19:48, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Support. Someone searching for "French Suites" (especially with capital "S") is overwhelmingly likely to be searching for Bach. It already redirects here, so per WP:PRIMARYTOPIC, this is unnecessary disambiguation. Dohn joe (talk) 21:51, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose, it doesn't hurt to mention Bach, some searching for just French Suites will find the same, --Gerda Arendt (talk) 15:06, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose I think these will normally be referred to as "Bach's French suites", or something similar, even if (on a technicality, as it were) no-one knows of anyone else's "French suites". Consider Frank's organ symphonies, for example; even if there is no other notable composer who has written an "organ symphony", mentioning Frank seems much more natural. Imaginatorium (talk) 19:22, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose for reasons given by Gerda Arendt and Imaginatorium.Pincrete (talk) 21:09, 3 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose The term "French suites", on its own, is too general. Even if Bach wrote by far the most well-known French suites, they would still be "Bach's French suites" rather than "the French suites". Syek88 (talk) 23:02, 11 September 2015 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.