Movement 1: Prelude
Movement 2: Allemande
Movement 3: Courante
Movement 4: Sarabande et les agréments de la même Sarabande
Movement 5: Bourrée I and II
Movement 6: Gigue
In the execution of his own pieces he generally took the time very brisk, but contrived, besides this briskness, to introduce so much variety in his performance that under his hand every piece was, as it were, like a discourse. When he wished to express strong emotions, he did not do it, as many do, by striking the keys with great force, but by melodical and harmonical figures, that is, by the internal resources of the art. In this he certainly felt very justly. How can it be the expression of violent passion when a person so beats on his instrument that, with all the hammering and rattling, you cannot hear any note distinctly, much less distinguish one from another?
After a lyrical Allemande in which the imitative entries are inverted after the first double bar, comes a Courante that is seamless and again unhurried. The dotted rhythms we find in the first suite give way to groups of four slurred quavers in both hands. The Sarabande is noble and eloquent, but not too slow. It is the first one in the set where Bach writes out ‘les agréments’—an ornamented version of the melody. It is not clear whether these should be played on the repeat of the individual sections, or following the complete dance as a true double. In this particular case I have opted for the former, as it seems an appropriate length for the material presented. The first Bourrée, for me, should not begin too loudly, otherwise the spell is broken too suddenly. On the repeat, the dynamic level can be increased. The second Bourrée is a musette in the major key, imitating the drone of a bagpipe. It is the only truly carefree moment in the whole suite. The final Gigue is a tour de force in tarentella style, with trills pushing it upward and forward. Not content with just repeating both sections, Bach adds an extra da capo, and we hear it all for a third time with an ever-increasing sense of drive and brilliance.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2003