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The present volume contains Bach's six French Suites Nicolaus Gerber (see the facsmile no. 1, p. X), both of
in their later embellished form. The origin of the title whom were among the circle of students closest to
of the French Suites is unclear. Such a title occurs nei- Bach; the question therefore arises whether the rich
ther in Bach's writings or in the earlier copies of the ornamentation represents merely a rigorous student
suites; yet Friedrich-Wilhelm Marpurg mentions it in exercise with no relevance to performance practice
1762 as if it were commonly known. Forkel writes in then or now, or if instead it is a record of the way in
his biography of Bach (1802): "One usually calls them which Bach himself improvisatorily embellished his
French Suites because they are written in the French music while playing. It must be remembered, how-
manner"; yet this criterion could just as well be ever, that the printed ornaments are not as authorita-
applied to the so-called English Suites. Perhaps the tive as the musical text itself, and that therefore it is up
name originated by analogy with the "English Suites" to the modern interpreter to chose the ornamentation
which (according to Forkel) were "composed for an that suits him best.
aristocratic Englishman". Thus, after composing the The basic reference for the execution of the orna-
English Suites, Bach may have wished to entitle his ments is the table of ornaments in the Klavierbchlein
next collection of suites in a matching or complemen- for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach: see the facsmile no. 2,
tary fashion, and so chose the name of the nation that p. X.
had been preeminent in suite composition. In any The following comments concern certain details:
case there was never an attempt in the earlier litera- The appoggiatura (accent) is indicated in the earlier
ture to trace the title of the French Suites back to any sources by a small slur (_, or double slur: :: ), the
Frenchman' s commission. pitch of the appoggiatura being implied by the direc-
The French Suites were composed during the years tion of the slur, whether from below or above. Usually,
1722 through 1725. Suites 1 through 4 must have been however, the position of the slur is so ambiguous (i. e.
composed in 1722, although Suite 1 may have been horizontal) that the direction of the appoggiatura must
written even somewhat earlier. Only the first few bars be deduced not from the sources, but from knowledge
of Suite 5 were written in 1722 and it was not com- of the ornamentation conventions of the time. In our
pleted until after 1723. Suite 6 is obviously the conclu- new edition these small appoggiatura slurs, in order
sion although it must have been composed not later to be more easily recognized, are always shown as a e
than 1725. with slurs to the main note.
The French Suites have a rich and varied manu- Trills are indicated in the earlier sources only excep-
script tradition. Not only do the sources frequently tionally as "tr"; usually they are indicated by the signs
vary with respect to the order of the suites and their - or -, which nowadays indica te mordents. Which of
movements, particularly in the most important manu- the two signs is used is usually a matter of personal
scripts, they also reveal conflicting readings. Thus if preference of the copyist; obviously the length of the
ever there was one self-contained and definitive ver- trill depends, as a rule, not on the number of waves in
sion of the French Suites, it has not survived in any the symbol but on the duration of the affected note.
single source. Indeed it seems almost as if Bach put In performing Bach's keyboard suites, one must
these suites aside totally after having begun various keep in mind that while the dance movements are
alterations on them, because his attention had mean- stylized to a certain extent, they do retain their basic
while been engaged by the six Partitas to be pub- character with all its typical style traits. Also Bach
lished beginning in 1726 as the first part of the Kla- adheres in the French Suites to the conventional se-
vierbung. quence of dance types: allemande - courante - sara-
The ornaments are applied so arbitrarily in most of bande- gigue.
the copies that it is hardly possible reliably to recon- The allemande is a calm German stepping dance
struct the original ornamentation anymore. Moreover that, according to Johann Gottfried Walther's Musi-
the number of ornaments vares considerably from one calisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732), "must be composed
source to another: the two most profusely ornamented and likewise danced in a grave and ceremonious man-
copies are those by "Anonymous 5" and Heinrich ner". Walther also mentions the characteristic upbeat

of one or occasionally three sixteenth notes. Accord- gigues, Mattheson says they "must move along with
ing to Johann Mattheson, in Der Vollkommene Capell- great eagerness and swiftness; but also they sound
meister (Hamburg, 1739), the allemande is "a serious a little plain"; of the Italian "giga" type, he says it
and well-composed harmoniousness in arpeggiated strives "for the utmost speed or haste, yet mostly in a
style, expressing satisfaction or amusement, and de- fleeting and not impetuous manner: somewhat like
lighting in order and calm". a brook rushing straight ahead".
The courante is a lively dance of French origin. In Into this basic sequence of dances Bach introduced
Bach's time there were two different types of cou- - usually following the sarabande - several of the
rante, and Bach differentiated between them in the stylish dances of the galant era:
Partitas in the first part of the Klavierbung with the The favorite among these dances was the minuet.
terms Courante (French style) and Corrente (Italian Of this originally French dance, Walther says: "The
style); in the French Suites however he always uses meter is triple, namely % but it is usually beat almost
the term Courante. The French type (for example, as if in 3/8." Other theorists of the period also view
BWV 812/2) is typically in a fairly moderate tempo the minuet as a fast dance (Quantz: "One plays a
and notated in 3/2 or%- occasionally alternating be- minuet nimbly ... there is one pulsation on every two
tween the two meters. It is certainly mainly this type quarter notes"). Mattheson on the contrary is of the
of whose rhythm Walther says it is "absolutely the opinion that the minuet has "no other affect than that
most serious one can find", and which Johann Jo- of pleasure in moderation".
achim Quantz, in Versuch einer Anweisung die FlOte The gavotte and the anglaise are so similar to each
traversiere zu spielen (Berln, 1752) describes as "splen- other that Bach at first called the fourth movement of
did". - The Italian type on the other hand is a dis- the third French Suite a gavotte, only later changing
tinctly faster dance (for example, BWV 813/2). Mat- the name to Angloise - probably because it lacks the
theson writes: "The motion of a courante is chiefly gavotte's characteristic upbeat of two quarter notes.
characterized by the passion or mood of sweet expec- The gavotte is usually in 2/2 meter and according to
tation. For there is something heartfelt, something Walther is "often quick, but occasionally slow", while
longing and also gratifying, in this melody: clearly [it Mattheson says: "Its affect is really that of quite jubi-
is] music on which hopes are built." lant joy." Quantz explains: "A gavotte is almost like
The sarabande, originally a Spanish dance that the rigaudon, but somewhat more moderate in tempo"
in earlier times was danced fast as well as slowly, (the rigaudon having one pulsation per measure). -
appears only as a slow dance in Bach's music. Usu- " Anglaise" on the other hand is a general name for
ally its rhythm is typified by a combining of the sec- various English dances, about which Mattheson says:
ond and third beats of the basic meter, such as ~ d 1~ d "The main characteristic of anglaises is, in a word,
(BWV 815/3), ~ ~ ~ 1 ~ J (BWV 812/3), or ~ J ) 1 ~ J capriciousness, yet accompanied by unbounded gen-
(BWV 817 /3). According to Walther the sarabande erosity and noble good-heartedness."
is "a grave, ... somewhat short melody", and Mat- The bourre too is closely related to the gavotte, but
theson says it "expresses no passion other than rever- faster (Quantz: "There is one pulsation per measure")
ence". and characterized by an upbeat of only one quarter
The gigue comes from Scotland and Ireland ("jig"). note. Walther calls it a happy dance in dactylic
Its lively movement appears in Bach's time mostly in rhythm, and this is clearly verified by BWV 816/5. To
an Italian-influenced fast % or in compound meters Mattheson "its distinguishing feature resides in con-
thereof, 6/8 or 12/s; the 4/4 meter of BWV 812/6 is arar- tentment and a pleasant demeanor, at the same time
ity and probably should be understood as a deriva- it is somewhat carefree and relaxed, a little indolent
tive of 12/8. The dotted rhythm of the "Canarie" is of- and easygoing, though not disagreeable".
ten found in the gigue (BWV 813/7), so that Quantz The loure is, according to Walther, a "dance, usu-
states: "The gigue and canarie have the same tempo. ally in %, which is slow and ceremonious; the first
If in 6/8, there is one pulsation per measure." The ten- note of each half-measure is dotted which should be
dency - especially in middle and northern Germany - well observed." It is not clear from this whether Wal-
to exploit contrapunta! texture, verging on fugue and ther means that the first quarter note in each half-
customarily introducing inversion in the second re- measure should be double-dotted. Quantz calls the
prise, in the gigue appears to be intended as a crown- loure "splendid" and remarks: "There is a beat on
ing conclusion of the entire suite. Of the "canarie-like" every quarter note."

As is evident from its name, the polonaise is origi- italics, slurs and ties by broken lines, other signs (e. g.
nally a Polish dance. It can take various forms; Mat- ornaments) by smaller type and if need be by square
theson distinguishes polonaises in even meters from brackets [ ]. Therefore all letters taken from the
those in uneven meters. Yet from the beginning of the sources - including dynamic markings such as f, p
eighteenth century to Chopin's time and beyond, the etc. - are given in roman type.
rhythrnic pattern .rn 1JTI has been typically associ- Since general titles have been standardized, the orig-
ated with the polonaise. What is typical in any case is inal titles are given in the Kritischer Bericht to NBA V /8;
the subdivision of the first beat into small note val- movement headings, however, are transcribed as in
ues, followed by the relatively even and calm second the original except for modernized spelling. Acciden-
and third beats. Mattheson writes: "In uneven meters tals are applied in accordance with modern practice.
the spondee [of the even-metered polonaise] becomes Other accidentals added according to the discretion of
an iamb, such that ... a short [quantity], namely a the editor (and thus not necessitated by the rules of
quarter note, is generally followed by a long [quan- modern practice) are printed in smaller type in front
tity], namely a half note, sometimes having the same of the affected note.
pitch." The rhythm of the polonaise thus resembles The original rhythrnic notation rm (and similar
that of the sarabande, but the polonaise is faster, combinations) is retained, since the realization ~
which explains how, following Gerber's precedent, the should presumably be understood.
movement in BWV 817/5 carne to be labelled "Menuet In the courante of the fourth French Suite BWV
Poloinais". Mattheson finds the characteristic affect of 815/2, eighth-note triplets and dotted rhythms are
the polonaise to be "a certain open-heartedness anda equally present. Although it is an editorial principie
truly free nature." of our new edition not to assimilate these rhythms
Finally the name air is given to any kind of short notationally, it should be understood that the dotted
vocal or instrumental piece with a song-like or dance- rhythrns should be performed as triplets.
like character but lacking the clear style traits of the For a thorough stud y of all problems connected
other types. with the transmission of sources and editing of the
present edition of these suites, refer to the Kritischer
Bericht of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe Series V, volume 8.
The present separate edition basically follows the crit- Gottingen, June 2000
ica! text of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe. With the exception Alfred Drr
of the general titles of works, all editorial additions (translated by Tilden A. Russell
within this volume are indicated as follows: letters by and J. Bradford Robinson)