The key of G major always seems to inspire Bach to write music of great radiance, joy, gentleness and technical display (the ‘Goldberg’ Variations and the fifth French Suite come immediately to mind). The Partita No 5 in G major is no exception. He opens in playful mood with a Praeambulum, the first four bars of which become a kind of ritornello. The necessary hand-crossing adds visual effect. The assimilation of rhythms in the lyrical Allemande (playing the dotted rhythms to coincide with the triplets) brings an extra touch of grace. Agility and lightness of touch are required in the Corrente – harmonically the simplest such dance in the set. Ornamentation is an integral part of the exquisite Sarabande. Unlike those of the French Suites, the Sarabandes of the Partitas are already very florid and seem to require few additions from the interpreter, but not in this case. The use of double-dotting gives the rhythm extra poise and expressivity. Upon first hearing, the next movement, Tempo di Minuetta, is confusing. Surely a minuet has three beats to a bar, not two. Bach combines the two to make a whimsical, delicate dance. The 3/8 swing of the Passepied reminds me of the fourth variation of the ‘Goldberg’, having the same rustic charm. If it were not for the difficulty of the final Gigue, this Partita would probably be performed more often, but here Bach really goes to town with a double fugue – perhaps the most technically challenging movement of the six Partitas.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 1997