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Sarabande con partite in C, BWV990


Though listed both in volume 42 of the Gesamtausgabe der Bachgesellschaft and in Roitzch’s supplement to the Peters edition of Bach’s keyboard works (revised in 1904 by Max Seiffert), the authorship of the Sarabande con partite, BWV990, a charmingly beautiful set of variations upon a Sarabande, has been hotly contested. Considerable concern has been voiced that the form and musical style of the work differ from other Bachian models, leading to speculation that it may have been composed by any number of slightly lesser-known North German composers. Although two sources explicitly attribute this piece to Johann Sebastian (two manuscripts bear the ascription “Da mio J S Bach”), they cannot be entirely trusted since all of the available sources derive from an unknown original source.

Weighing up all the evidence it seems impossible to assert with any real confidence that Johann Sebastian was the author of this work. However, if another source should come to light in the future, strengthening the association, it would be in many ways immensely satisfying as it would provide us with an important precedent for the ‘Goldberg Variations’. For here, as in BWV998, is an ingenious set of variations upon the underlying harmonic structure of a simple Sarabande. Some have tried to suggest that the piece was composed in the mid-seventeenth century (Eichberg 1975), but, given the complexity of the figuration and at times highly developed harmonic idiom in some of the more expressive movements, a later date would seem more appropriate. Whatever the case, this is a superbly attractive set of variations upon the most simple and beautiful of dance-inspired themes—without doubt the work of a highly skilled composer and absolutely worthy of its current (albeit peripheral) status in Bach’s keyboard oeuvre.

One unusual feature of the variation set is the inclusion of a suite at the end, occupying the final four partitas (numbers XIII-XVI). After the seemingly climactic fanfare-like partita XII this comes as something of a surprise and marks a significant departure from the norm compared with mainstream developments in the variation tradition of the early eighteenth century. However, the inclusion of the four dance movements (Allemanda, Courante, Aria Variata and Giguetta) lends the work a certain charm and there is something recognisably conclusive about the rustic and up-beat gigue which brings the work to a close. The use of delicate style brisé textures throughout leaves little doubt that these variations were conceived for the harpsichord rather than the organ.

from notes by Matthew Halls © 2009


Bach: Goldberg Variations & other works
Studio Master: CKD356Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Movement 01: Sarabanda: Theme
Track 1 on CKD356 CD1 [2'01] Download only
Movement 02: Partita 1
Track 2 on CKD356 CD1 [1'26] Download only
Movement 03: Partita 2
Track 3 on CKD356 CD1 [0'51] Download only
Movement 04: Partita 3
Track 4 on CKD356 CD1 [1'41] Download only
Movement 05: Partita 4
Track 5 on CKD356 CD1 [1'26] Download only
Movement 06: Partita 5
Track 6 on CKD356 CD1 [1'07] Download only
Movement 07: Partita 6
Track 7 on CKD356 CD1 [2'02] Download only
Movement 08: Partita 7
Track 8 on CKD356 CD1 [1'14] Download only
Movement 09: Partita 8
Track 9 on CKD356 CD1 [1'22] Download only
Movement 10: Partita 9
Track 10 on CKD356 CD1 [0'49] Download only
Movement 11: Partita 10
Track 11 on CKD356 CD1 [1'09] Download only
Movement 12: Partita 11
Track 12 on CKD356 CD1 [1'36] Download only
Movement 13: Partita 12: Allemanda
Track 13 on CKD356 CD1 [1'46] Download only
Movement 14: Partita 13: Courante
Track 14 on CKD356 CD1 [1'30] Download only
Movement 15: Partita 14: Aria variata
Track 15 on CKD356 CD1 [1'10] Download only
Movement 16: Partita ultima: Giguetta
Track 16 on CKD356 CD1 [0'54] Download only

Track-specific metadata for APR6008 disc 2 track 7

Extract: Theme – Partitas 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 14, 15 & 11
Recording date
circa 1929
Recording venue
Polydor, Germany
Recording producer
Recording engineer
Hyperion usage
  1. Michael Zadora - The complete recordings (APR6008)
    Disc 2 Track 7
    Release date: November 2009
    2CDs for the price of 1 — Rights no longer controlled by Hyperion
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