The Suite No 3 in D major, BWV1068, is probably Bach’s earliest ensemble suite with a French overture, although we have no evidence to indicate—as has often been stated—that any of these works was composed before Bach’s arrival in Leipzig late in May 1723. Somehow this work, originally tender and intimate in its address, seems to have been transformed totally through the addition of the brass and drum choir, even though this has been very cunningly done; an ingenious detail is the change from repeated notes to rising arpeggio in the first trumpet part at the return to the opening metre in the overture movement. Easily the most famous movement here is the exquisite quartet movement which forms the air; the wonderful thing is the way in which Bach turns a number of commonplace techniques (for example, the ‘striding bass’) to magical effect by his exact manner of combining them; there are beautiful moments in all of the parts. The only pair of alternating movements here are the gavottes, which somehow have a pastoral character before the brass are added, and a hunting style with the trumpets and drums. In courts influenced by French taste, the gavotte would be almost as much of a favourite as the minuet. The bourrée seems to demand a performing speed that is even faster than usual; this movement is another where the trumpet and drum contributions have been very discreetly added, so as nimbly to punctuate or to emphasize the thematic character of the dance. The final gigue is something of a swaggering affair, possibly also intended as a hunting movement. Its style is not that distant from that of the rondo themes of the hunting-finales with which Mozart would, over sixty years later, adorn his horn concertos.
from notes by Stephen Daw © 1996