BACH 704

Harpsichord Partitas 1-3,
BWV 825-7

Derek Adlam,
Feldberg Harpsichord

Partita 1 in B flat Major, BWV 825
Praeludium – Allemande – Corrente – Sarabande
Menuet I – Menuet II – Giga

Partita 2 in c minor, BWV 826
SINFONIA (Grave Adagio – Andante – Allegro)
Allemande – Courante – Sarabande – Rondeaux – Capriccio

Partita 3 in a minor, BWV 827
Fantasia – Allemande – Corrente – Sarabande
Burlesca – Scherzo – Gigue

BACH 705

Harpsichord Partitas 4-6,
BWV 828-30

Derek Adlam,
Feldberg Harpsichord

Partita 4 in D Major, BWV 828
Ouverture – Allemande – Courante – Aria
– Sarabande – Menuet – Gigue

Partita 5 in G Major, BWV 829
Praeambulum – Allemande – Corrente
– Sarabande – Tempo di Minuetto – Passepied – Gigue

Partita 6 in e minor, BWV 830
Toccata – Allemande – Corrente – Air
– Sarabande – Tempo di Gavotta – Gigue

While Bach became active during the 1730s and 40s as an agent both for publishers and instrument-makers, his own published works are few, financed mainly by himself, and were produced largely for academic reasons as guides to scholars, summarizing Bach's own baroque art. Thus the title page of these Six Partitas, published by Bach himself in 1731, reads:

Keyboard Practice, consisting of preludes, allemandes, courantes, sarabandes, gigues, minuets, and other galanteries, composed for music-lovers, to refresh their spirits, by Johann Sebastian Bach, Actual Capellmeister to the Court of Saxe-Weissenfels and Directore Chori Musici Lipsiensis. Opus 1. Published by the Author. 1731.

But as might be expected from Bach, these are no dry academic exercises; on the contrary, they exhibit all the variety, rhythm and tunefulness of a selection of popular dance-tunes – which is precisely what they were.

The Suite of Dances for instrumental ensembles or a solo instrument such as lute or harpsichord, was an important and popular musical form of the Baroque era; the separate movements were of contrasting speeds, metrical patterns and textures, but bound together into a coherent group by generally sharing the same key and thematic material.

Derek Adlam writes:
The creative genius of Bach is so obviously at work in these Partitas – all are remarkable for the way in which the musical essence is distilled from each dance whilst formal limitations are left behind in the unimpeded stream of musical invention and intense emotional expression that places these Suites apart from almost all others of the genre. The progress away from stylistic limitation is shown by the use of such titles as "Tempo di Menuetto" and "Tempo di Gavotta" and the way in which a piece such as the e minor Sarabande is treated almost as a free improvisation, the richness of the harmony being matched only by the glittering fantasy of the decoration of ornament, scales and arpeggios.

In this 1972 recording Derek Adlam plays a harpsichord by the Sevenoaks, Kent firm of John Feldberg pictured prior to the recording sessions in the Oryx Studios. The instrument has two manuals, with an 8-foot and 4-foot stop on each, and a 16-foot on the lower manual. The strong 'Germanic' character of this instrument makes it particularly suitable for the Bach Partitas, or 'German Suites'.

Recorded in the Oryx Sound Studios, Walton-on-Thames. Producer: Michael Meacock. Recording Engineer: Lawrence Meacock. Harpsichord: Feldberg F.3, 1960.

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Baroque Music Library