Suite No 4 in D major, BWV1069, has an opening whose echoing rhythms, held notes and periods of silence seem to illustrate the outdoors, even when the music is heard inside a building; the contrasted central section of the overture movement is much more of a bustling affair. If the opening represents some spectacular royal event, such as a parade, then the central portion must surely represent the reaction of the admiring crowd. If this seems far-fetched, we must remember that the French overture had originated in the music accompanying the entrance of the sovereign at the start of a production—usually, then, of a ballet. The following pair of bourrées gives scope for the display of the wind instruments, both in dialogue with the strings in the first and with their seeming light approval in the second. The gavotte is unusual in that the line which emphasizes the steps of the dance is the bass line; the material is shared during the later centre of each repeated section, but throughout the melodic line of the violins seems to question, rather than to reinforce, the predictable character of the titled dance. The two minuets, during which Bach tactically withdraws the added trumpets to produce a more brilliant effect later, have a somewhat more intimate character; in the first, the oboes and bassoon double the strings throughout, whereas in the second, played alternativement, the strings play alone. This scoring may have been designed to reflect the traditional character of the French minuet as Bach understood it. The final réjouissance must for today’s English listeners point forwards to the similarly titled movement of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks
. Bach’s réjouissance here leads us to wonder whether perhaps the original version of BWV1069 may not itself have been intended to be played as an accompaniment to some ballet or mime depicting a contest or a battle of some kind.
from notes by Stephen Daw © 1996