Day 8: Suite No. 2 in D minor, Allemande

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

Yesterday I wrote about how my teenage self conflated the D minor suite with the viola da gamba music of Marin Marais (1656-1728), so I was interested to read David Ledbetter’s claim in Unaccompanied Bach: Performing the Solo Works that he found a marked similarity between Bach’s D minor Allemande and the Allemande and Double from the Premier Livre de Pièces de Viole of none other than M. Marais. (1) Well, it makes sense.

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Day 7: Suite No. 2 in D minor, Prelude

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By Miranda Wilson

I first learned the D minor suite when I was about fourteen. It coincided with being taken to see a French film about the composer and viola da gambist Marin Marais, Tous les matins du monde. I was enchanted by the film, which started me on my lifelong love of the viola da gamba.

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Day 6: Suite No. 1 in G major, Gigue

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By Miranda Wilson

There’s something about the gigue as a form that seems a lot more rugged and rambunctious than the other Baroque dance forms. You can’t imagine people dancing a stately allemande with mud on their boots, spinach in their teeth, and a beer stein in one hand, can you?

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Day 5: Suite No. 1 in G major, Menuets I & II

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By Miranda Wilson

The challenge of Galanterien

Each of Bach’s six cello suites contains a pair of Galanterien, dances that fall outside the usual scheme of prelude, allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. In all of them, these dances are placed between the sarabande and the gigue.

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Day 4: Suite No. 1 in G major, Sarabande

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By Miranda Wilson

When I was a first-year university student doing some research for an essay in my music history class, I read something that filled me with unreasonable amounts of glee. The sarabande, I learned (probably from Grove’s Dictionary), had at one point been banned in Spain for its obscenity. Now that  put a different perspective on Early Music Ensemble rehearsals!

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Day 3: Suite No. 1 in G major, Courante

Flamingos dance courtship dances too. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Miranda Wilson

When you have a dance whose title translates as “running,” it’s hard not to approach it at breakneck speed to prove the point. So I was interested to read in the Oxford Companion to Music that the seventeenth-century French courante was actually a much slower and statelier dance than its Italian analogue, the corrente. In fact, the authors of the OCTM entry describe it as “the slowest of all the court dances.” it was also, interestingly enough, a “courtship dance.” (1)

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Day 2: Suite No. 1 in G major, Allemande

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By Miranda Wilson

Bach didn’t write his cello suites as music for dancing, but apart from the Preludes, all the movements are stylized dance movements, intended perhaps to suggest the lightness and fun of dancing, if not actually to incite the audience to leap to their feet and grab a partner. Allemande is the French word for a German dance.

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Day 1: Suite No. 1 in G major, Prelude

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By Miranda Wilson

The G major suite tends to be the one people learn first. To be honest, I hadn’t played it a lot since I first tackled it at some point in my childhood, ca. 1990, I think. I’ve never performed it in entirety, and I suppose I was thinking of it, possibly sacrilegiously, as “the easy one”–at least, in comparison with the finger-twisting D major or C minor. After all, the Prelude is often compared to the C major Prelude in Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, which is the sort of piece you play on the piano when you’re about 10, and which is kind of easy. (I shall prepare myself for a smack-down by my pianist mother now.)

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