In publishing his Opus 1, Bach most probably wanted to begin with something highly accessible and attractive, yet worthy of his art. The Partita No 1 in B flat is certainly the most approachable of the six, and the one most pianists attempt first. It continues in the spirit of the French Suites, combining grace, agility, sprightliness, and nobility. The trill at the opening of the Praeludium is the first problem to solve – especially since it has to be played with equal precision later on by the left hand. This is a movement of beautiful proportions with a built-in crescendo at the end (Bach doubling the left hand in octaves). The themes of almost all the subsequent dance movements are centred around a broken B flat major chord – the Allemande with its unbroken line of semiquavers, the Corrente with triplets, the first Menuet in quavers. The Sarabande unfolds with great dignity and calm despite Bach’s florid melody and trills. To finish Bach wrote what has surely become one of his ‘greatest hits’: the brilliance of the hand-crossing in the Giga, once mastered, is exciting to both player and audience alike.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 1997