Bach, Johann Sebastian Suite no. 1 in C major BWV1066 arranged for string quartet



Bach, Johann Sebastian Suite no. 1 in C major BWV1066

arranged for string quartet by Margaret Faultless

Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Overtures’, or Orchestral Suites as they are now known, have their origins in dance suites that were popular in the 1600s. The word ‘orchestral’ suggests a large ensemble of players but in Bach’s time they would have been performed by only a few (or even single) string players on each part. They were not conceived as a set, and were likely partially written while Bach was working in the court at Cöthen (1717–23) and then later when he assumed the role of director of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig in 1729. The suites follow the pattern of a French Overture followed by dance movements, each with their own distinctive character.

FE 1066 Suite no. 1 in C major BWV 1066

The suite in C major may have been written at Cöthen (1717–23) but also performed by the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig. The original suite features a concertante (solo) ensemble of two oboes and a bassoon, alongside the four-part string writing. There would also have been a keyboard continuo and an additional bowed bass instrument, (possibly an instrument played at the same pitch as a cello). The wind players feature in solo episodes of the overture as a trio sonata texture, and as soloists in the second Gavotte, Bourrée and Passepied. In this version for string quartet the solo wind parts are played by the violins and cello. The quirky instrumentation of the second Gavotte (an imitation horn call played not by the wind, as you might expect, but by the strings) is now a solo viola line and can be played with flamboyance and panache. Bach also plays with our expectations in the second Menuet, where the understated texture sounds almost as though a conventional melody is absent. Another notable texture is the swirling inner parts of the Forlane, particularly audible in this string quartet arrangement, and fun to play. This is also the only example of this dance in Bach’s music.

score & parts £15