Bach, Johann Sebastian. Suite no. 4 in D major BWV1069 arranged for string quartet



Bach, Johann Sebastian. Suite no. 4 in D major BWV1069

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.

FE1069 Suite no. 4 in D major BWV 1069

Early in the 19th century there was doubt about the authorship of this suite as there are few autograph sources. However, the grand French Overture was used (with added vocal parts) on Christmas Day 1725 as the opening chorus of cantata BWV110 Unser Mund sei voll Lachens, and there is no doubt that it was composed by Bach. The suite might originally have been written at Cöthen for wind and strings but without trumpets or timpani. These were added for the cantata and then feature in later versions of the instrumental suite. Both the overture and dances (Boureés, Gavotte, Menuets and the boisterous Réjouissance) are large-scale and extrovert, partly due to the use of two instrumental ‘choirs’, one comprised of three oboes plus bassoon, and the other of two violins, viola and cello. Distilling all these parts into a quartet texture was a challenge, but, I hope, a worthwhile one. The ingenious phrasing of the original enables this arrangement to suggest different voices in the music even when played by the same instrument.

score & parts £15