Movement 1: Prelude
Movement 2: Allemande
Movement 3: Courante
Movement 4: Sarabande
Movement 5: Gavotte I and II
Movement 6: Gigue
The Sarabande is in 3/2 time, denoting a slower tempo than usual. It is in two distinct parts: the initial statement which is slightly bare and can certainly be ornamented on the repeats, and then a fully written-out double which should be played afterwards. It is written in the style brisé made famous by the seventeenth-century lutenists (simply meaning that the arpeggiation is written out as an integral part of the line). Here a certain amount of rubato seems not only possible but desirable, especially in the second strain. It is a perfect example of how the harmonic content dictates the emotional response. The two Gavottes are linked melodically, with the theme of the second one being a direct quote of the first except in the major mode. The walking bass we encounter in the Courante is present again in Gavotte I, but changes register to the upper parts for part of the second section. Gavotte II is yet another musette, heard in the distance.
The set of English Suites is brought to a magnificent conclusion with the D minor Gigue—a masterpiece of ingenuity and virtuosity. The contrapuntal energy of the Prelude is now renewed in full force for a fugue that is completely demonic. It is written in 12/16 time, so should be brisk. The pedal-point effect of the Prelude is apparent in the fugue subject and in the long trills which must be played simultaneously (not an easy feat!). The quavers should be spiky and insistent, yet always follow the line. The syncopations caused by the ties are there for extra effect. This fugue is a perfect example of ‘mirror’ writing, which was taken a step further by Bach in his Art of Fugue. The first seven bars of the second section are, to take just one example, an exact inversion of the first seven bars of the beginning of the Gigue. We don’t need to know this to feel its tremendous power, but when we analyse what is there, it becomes all the more remarkable.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2003