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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67451/2
Recording details: August 2002
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: September 2003
Total duration: 27 minutes 57 seconds

English Suite No 1 in A major, BWV806

Prelude  [2'08]
Allemande  [4'31]
Courante I  [1'58]
Courante II  [7'14]
Sarabande  [5'14]
Gigue  [2'52]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The English Suite No 1 in A major, BWV806 is the odd one out in the set, and totally unlike the other five. Perhaps the least played nowadays, it is very French in style and seems close to Couperin (whose Premier Livre de Pièces de Clavecin was published in 1713). It exists in an earlier version (BWV806a) with a shorter prelude, only one variant of the second Courante, and without the second Bourrée. The first eleven bars of the Prelude are taken from the first harpsichord suite by Charles Dieupart (1667?–c1740), a French composer who lived in London from the early 1700s. Bach had copied out all six of Dieupart’s suites, no doubt then being inspired to write his own. After the opening flourish, we settle into a pastorale in 12/8 (in Dieupart’s piece it was the concluding Gigue) that is very reminiscent of the A major Prelude of Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Nothing disturbs us unduly. The Allemande which follows is also gentle and calm, using arpeggiated figures and pedal points rather than the standard imitative entries. The texture is dense, but the key of A major demands a certain radiance.

Then comes a rather big dose of Courantes—two, in fact, and the second with two variations or doubles. Couperin often wrote series of Courantes in the same key, but it is unusual in Bach. It is not an easy dance to get a hold of, either as a player or as a listener—nor for a dancer, I imagine, as its rhythmic subtleties can be quite complicated. All of the courantes in Bach’s English Suites are of the French variety (the Italian corrente being another kettle of fish, and a much livelier dance), and this is often ignored by pianists who seem to find in them a bit of a romp. Nothing could be further from the true character of the dance. The four we have here are a lesson in ornamentation, especially the second Courante with its Italian-style flourishes in the first double, and the walking bass in the second.

The Sarabande of the A major suite provides the great moment of the entire work. Seventeen of the thirty-two bars contain the swirling motive of the first bar which then soars upwards, resting on the second beat (a rhythmic characteristic of the dance). The melody is more Italian than French with its long phrases and curves. Unlike the other sarabandes of the English Suites, this one is already highly embellished to start with, leaving little room for ‘improvement’ on the repeats.

To conclude we have two high-spirited Bourrées (the first in the major key making a feature of two-note slurs; the second in the minor which stays in the lower half of the keyboard—another thing which Couperin often did), and a Gigue which will be remembered by all those who have played it for the annoying trills in both hands. The piano marking at the end of each section is Bach’s own, showing that he preferred to end this piece with charm rather than bravura.

from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2003

Other albums featuring this work
'Bach: Angela Hewitt plays Bach' (CDS44421/35)
Bach: Angela Hewitt plays Bach
MP3 £45.00FLAC £45.00ALAC £45.00Buy by post £50.00 CDS44421/35  15CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Bach: The English Suites' (SACDA67451/2)
Bach: The English Suites
This album is not yet available for download SACDA67451/2  2CDs Super-Audio CD — Deleted  
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