French Suite #5 in G major by J.S. Bach
Bach's French Suites date from the Cðthen period (1717-1723), and several were included in the Notenbüchlein which he had assembled in 1722. These six suites were titled Suites pour le Claveçin to underline his cosmopolitan absorption of the style of the claveçinistes. As in so many of his works, the composer achieved a seamless fusion of several national styles. Italian courantes coexist with French sarabandes, and French gigues sparkle with Germanic counterpoint. The French Suites have no preludes, but contain the typical early 18th century forms of allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue, with character movements inserted after the sarabande. Suite #5 opens with an amiable Allemande which looks toward the Rococo with its airy texture and slightly chromatic harmony. The Courante embodies the Italian running-dance style with regular moving rhythms and scales in contrary motion. The eloquent Sarabande is a trio employing two voices in the lower register to support the arching melody. The Gavotte commences before the main beat, typical of French style, so that the strong beats are not where we expect them to be. The Bourée displays the composer's skill with two-part counterpoint, using ornamented vital motives in long sequences. In the Loure, an evocation of the pastoral bagpipe, the peau de bufle is used. The piece is unusual for its diversity of rhythms over simple harmonies. The final dance employs a fugal style which recalls the style of Bach's keyboard Toccatas. The static broken-chord opening fools the listener with its predictability; but layers of complexity accumulate and in the second half of the piece Bach introduces unexpected rhythmic and contrapuntal devices, driving the Gigue to a satisfying conclusion.
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