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#1238125 - 07/27/09 12:07 PM Bach's French Suites
SeilerFan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/27/09
Posts: 746
I have fallen in love with Bach's French Suites. I never cared much about them before I started to play them recently. Honestly, I've never carefully listened to them before. How elegant and well thought-out they are. My favorite so far is the suite in b minor. The French Suites are more gracious and more "slender" than, say, the English Suites or the Partitas (aka the German Suites) (both of which I am also very fond). There is so much expression in the simple Allemande at the beginning of the b minor suite. It's hard to believe that with such minimal musical expenditure Bach reaches so much. I come to understand them more the more often I play them, but it is beyond my ken how someone can come up with a composition like this in the first place.

If I had to describe my religious beliefs, I would have to acknowledge that I am an agnostic bordering on atheism. However, when I play Bach, it always seems to me that there must be a God. This music is so magic and deep.

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#1238150 - 07/27/09 12:49 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: SeilerFan]
Gerrit Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 26
That allemande is magnificent. It is the only movement I have ever learnt from a French Suite, but I must agree with you that they are really great, on a par with the Preludes and Fugues, I believe!

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#1238341 - 07/27/09 05:33 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Gerrit]
Ridicolosamente Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/08/08
Posts: 1469
Loc: Miami, Florida, USA
That Allemande is quite a treasure. There are still a handful of the Suites I'm unfamiliar with myself, and need to find some time to sit down and listen. Thanks for the reminder!

Daniel
_________________________
Currently working on:
-Dane Rudhyar's Stars from Pentagrams No 3

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#1238342 - 07/27/09 05:33 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Gerrit]
pianovirus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 956
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
Yes, they are wonderful indeed, and it has also taken some time for me to appreciate them. I'm particularly fond of the Suite No. 5, and especially its sublime Sarabande, but I think I have to listen to the b minor Suite again as well.
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#1238453 - 07/27/09 08:18 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: pianovirus]
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
How true this is - my copy of the French Suites is falling apart - what varied and inviting music it is
_________________________
'Always remember: the higher we fly the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.""
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#1238456 - 07/27/09 08:23 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Schubertian]
jnod Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/04/09
Posts: 794
Loc: Toronto
I find all Bach is like this - until you dig in it's hard to know what you're missing. The Partitas are also amazing. I've been working through the little preludes for the last few months. They have the virture of being pretty easy but many of them are gorgeous. Nice simply little thoughts - often developed over the course of one page.
_________________________
Justin
-------
Bach English Suite #5
Scarlatti Sonata K141 . L422
Mozart Sonata K333
Schubert Impromptu opus 90 D899
Schubert Moment Musicaux opus 94 D780

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#1238460 - 07/27/09 08:26 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Schubertian]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4437
Loc: San Jose, CA
I had, years ago, a wonderful recording of Alicia de Laroccha playing the French Suites. It's been out of release so long I can't even find it in her discography (and I haven't even seen a record player in almost as long).

But, there is the CD of Glenn Gould. One reviewer said, "You're either a big fan, or not much of a fan at all." Happens I am, and that's a big Bach favorite.

SeilerFan is clearly a person who appreciates the finer things.
_________________________
Clef


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#1238482 - 07/27/09 08:55 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Jeff Clef]
jnod Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/04/09
Posts: 794
Loc: Toronto
I gorged myself on Gould for a good 15 years and, while I still love him, I do find myself interested in other renditions.

I'm curious how influential he really is now? There have been lots of *good* recordings of his works - I like some of the Hewitt recordings for example, but I don't know of any that are as great, at least on piano. It kind of seems to me like Gould exhausted the Bach repertoire as far as the piano is concerned - lots of really great stuff on harpsichord mind you...

Any opinions out there?
_________________________
Justin
-------
Bach English Suite #5
Scarlatti Sonata K141 . L422
Mozart Sonata K333
Schubert Impromptu opus 90 D899
Schubert Moment Musicaux opus 94 D780

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#1238489 - 07/27/09 09:09 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Jeff Clef]
DameMyra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 1983
Loc: South Jersey
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
I had, years ago, a wonderful recording of Alicia de Laroccha playing the French Suites.


Her wonderful recording of the 6th in E major is still available. I have it in the wonderful box set, "The Art of Alicia de Laroccha". It is my favorite recording of that particular Suite.
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#1238917 - 07/28/09 01:52 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: DameMyra]
dalcyonir Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/04/08
Posts: 38
Loc: Greece
Listening to Schiff's recordings lastly and i find them quite beautiful despite a lot of pedaling which sometimes i don't like it and i return to Gould:P
Well reviewing whole suite no.1(d minor) at the moment and i love all parts and especially Sarabande(the Spanish effect!).
_________________________
Currently working on:
---Bach French Suite No.1
---Czerny,Cramer Etudes
---Haydn Sonata Hob.XVI/34

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#1238960 - 07/28/09 02:47 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Jeff Clef]
SeilerFan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/27/09
Posts: 746
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
SeilerFan is clearly a person who appreciates the finer things.


Aren't we all here? cool I guess that makes this forum enjoyable.

Anyway, even though there are so many recordings of Bach's piano music, I feel myself returning to Glenn Gould's recordings time and again. I also love Schiff a lot, he's a first-rate artist. However, there is some inexplicable magic that happens when Gould plays.

The French Suites are almost fragile in their set-up, much less bombastic than, say, the English Suites, and not as carried away by passion as many of the Partitas. Of course, these are general observations and do not apply to all pieces contained in these collections. However, this juxtaposition of contained musical character and the utterly rich inventiveness makes for a breath taking experience.

In terms of simplicity, I am still trying to understand how two or three simple voices - even though their thematic content is excellent, they remain simple and clear in their shape - can reach such a power when put together. When you play right and left hand separately, you'll have on or two voices each that sing but they don't have vertical depth. Now, when you put them together, out of this layering there rises an incredible harmonic body that strikes me. Bach is a master of the horizontal and the vertical on equal terms, and that is not only true for his fugal or strongly contrapuntal works. The French Suites are a perfect example for the. Even though there is lots of contrapuntal work, it is by no means as strict as in the WTC. Creating harmonic progression is something that I could figure out by myself. Creating melodic progression, too. However, putting these progressions together in a perfectly thought-out piece is what makes Bach a mystery to me.



Edited by SeilerFan (07/28/09 02:49 PM)

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#1238984 - 07/28/09 03:16 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: SeilerFan]
jazzyprof Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2642
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
The French Suites are indeed amazing. They are such a joy to play. My favorite piece in the entire set is the Allemande from Suite #4 in Eb major. Speaking of this Allemande, Donald Satz writes:
"If there is validity to Bach's view that his music came from God, this Allemande is the best exhibit. It's so warm and rich, and elicts within me the strongest feelings of well-being and the sensation that all that's best within me is surging upward from deep within. The music starts low on the keyboard as the bass line moves upward and then downward inexorably; I'm taken in immediately."
I attempt it in this Taste Test
_________________________
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

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#1239035 - 07/28/09 04:22 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: jazzyprof]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4821
Loc: Seattle area, WA
I just had to add my voice to the list of Bach lovers. I'm ashamed to admit that I am relatively new to Bach. I avoided him for years. I used to find his music dry and difficult. About 2 years ago I took another taste and that started an unending feast. What a joy! His music is so rich, absorbing and fun, although difficult, to play! Learning Bach has improved my sight reading, articulation, all around technique and understanding of music tremendously.

I'm not that familiar with the French Suites, but the more Bach I hear, the more in awe I am of his work. I'm especially in love with his piano concertos (Perahia's recordings). I love Gould's Goldberg variations but I'm not crazy about much of his WTC. It's a little too sparse for me and some of the changes he made don't fall gently on my ears. So far, I like Schiff's WTC best having only heard his, Hewitt's and Gould's.

If I could play nothing but Bach for the rest of my life, I would be content. I was delighted when my new teacher told me I will be learning music from all periods but will always be working on some Bach at the same time.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1239039 - 07/28/09 04:26 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: gooddog]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19591
Loc: New York City
What is the conceptual difference(why are some called) between French Suites, English Suites and Partitas?


Edited by pianoloverus (07/28/09 09:02 PM)

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#1239092 - 07/28/09 05:35 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: pianoloverus]
Janus K. Sachs Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1711
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
^ The latest Bach scholarship suggests that the mathematical proportions, pitch ciphers, and various other structural details of the French Suites were derived from and inspired by Clafoutis aux Cerises.
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#1239167 - 07/28/09 07:55 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Janus K. Sachs]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18229
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Janus K. Sachs
^ The latest Bach scholarship suggests that the mathematical proportions, pitch ciphers, and various other structural details of the French Suites were derived from and inspired by Clafoutis aux Cerises.


... and here - ta-da! - is the recipe!

CauxC

Enjoy!

Cheers!
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1239220 - 07/28/09 09:06 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: BruceD]
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4821
Loc: Seattle area, WA



_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1239254 - 07/28/09 09:57 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: gooddog]
dmc092657 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/08
Posts: 277
Quote:
I find all Bach is like this - until you dig in it's hard to know what you're missing.


This has been my experience with Bach as well. Once my teacher gave me some P&F from WTC, I was hopelessly hooked. My favs used to be Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann (I still love them). Now I have more Bach in my iPod than any other composer. I think Gould is an acquired taste. He doesn't do it for me as much as Perahia & Hewitt.

Someone asked what the difference was between the English, French Suites & the Partitas. I'd love to know the answer as well. Not sure how relevant this is but I seem to recall a post from Kreisler (one of our resident experts) that there was no template for the English Suites. They were largely based on French models. If I'm right, I'd like to know what those French models are.

Kreisler, are you listening....?

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#1240127 - 07/30/09 12:33 AM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: SeilerFan]
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: SeilerFan
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
SeilerFan is clearly a person who appreciates the finer things.


Aren't we all here? cool I guess that makes this forum enjoyable.

Anyway, even though there are so many recordings of Bach's piano music, I feel myself returning to Glenn Gould's recordings time and again. I also love Schiff a lot, he's a first-rate artist. However, there is some inexplicable magic that happens when Gould plays.

The French Suites are almost fragile in their set-up, much less bombastic than, say, the English Suites, and not as carried away by passion as many of the Partitas. Of course, these are general observations and do not apply to all pieces contained in these collections. However, this juxtaposition of contained musical character and the utterly rich inventiveness makes for a breath taking experience.

In terms of simplicity, I am still trying to understand how two or three simple voices - even though their thematic content is excellent, they remain simple and clear in their shape - can reach such a power when put together. When you play right and left hand separately, you'll have on or two voices each that sing but they don't have vertical depth. Now, when you put them together, out of this layering there rises an incredible harmonic body that strikes me. Bach is a master of the horizontal and the vertical on equal terms, and that is not only true for his fugal or strongly contrapuntal works. The French Suites are a perfect example for the. Even though there is lots of contrapuntal work, it is by no means as strict as in the WTC. Creating harmonic progression is something that I could figure out by myself. Creating melodic progression, too. However, putting these progressions together in a perfectly thought-out piece is what makes Bach a mystery to me.



This is what makes Bach's music so wonderful. It's with this shear simplicity that he does things. He doesn't require a lot of magic, smoke and mirrors to make his music speak. He simply states what he wants and it comes forth from the music. Right now I've been playing his French Suite in E major which I find very wonderful. I agree about the fragile nature of them in comparision to the others. He has imitated the French style very well here although in the Germanic style without all the rhythmic alterations. The French Baroque music is fragile in comparison to the contemporaries in England and Germany.

When Bach is played well, his music gives me goose pimples and has actually brought tears to my eyes not from pain but from the pure joy that it brings.

John
_________________________
Nothing.

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#1240181 - 07/30/09 05:20 AM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: dmc092657]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7980
Originally Posted By: dmc092657

Someone asked what the difference was between the English, French Suites & the Partitas. I'd love to know the answer as well.


Bach was only responsible for naming the Partitas; the English and French suites weren't published in his lifetime, and those names aren't his. So looking for differences based on the titles isn't going to work. The story on the English suites is that they are called that because Bach's biographer said they were written for an Englishman (but there's no supporting evidence to bear that out), rather than because of any stylistic reasons.

As three sets of pieces written at different times, they do seem to each have some characteristics that distinguish one from another, but the titles of the sets aren't particularly meaningful. You could swap all the titles around and it wouldn't really make any difference, at least not based on musical grounds.

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#1240198 - 07/30/09 07:02 AM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: wr]
jnod Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/04/09
Posts: 794
Loc: Toronto
I think the Goldbergs are the most interesting of the keyboard pieces. A very simple G > D progression taken to stratospherically complicated ends....
_________________________
Justin
-------
Bach English Suite #5
Scarlatti Sonata K141 . L422
Mozart Sonata K333
Schubert Impromptu opus 90 D899
Schubert Moment Musicaux opus 94 D780

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#1240449 - 07/30/09 04:08 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: dmc092657]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13812
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: dmc092657
[quote]
Someone asked what the difference was between the English, French Suites & the Partitas. I'd love to know the answer as well. Not sure how relevant this is but I seem to recall a post from Kreisler (one of our resident experts) that there was no template for the English Suites. They were largely based on French models. If I'm right, I'd like to know what those French models are.

Kreisler, are you listening....?


Sorry...hadn't read through this thread in a while. Bach's model was probably Kuhnau, but was probably familiar with Couperin as well. The Italian style is also frequently listed as a strong influence, but I'm not aware of any specific works or composers that Bach would've known. (Partita is an Italian word...)

Of course, the dances themselves often have French and Italian roots: Courante/Corrente, Gigue/Giga, and Menuet/Minuet.

It all gets pretty complicated, and I've never heard a definitive answer on the stylistic origins of the suites.

The titles "English" and "French" are, I believe, the result of early critics and biographers trying to describe them. The only clear difference is that the English suites have preludes and the French suites do not. The English suites also tend to be a bit longer and a bit more difficult.
_________________________
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#1240971 - 07/31/09 01:33 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Kreisler]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4437
Loc: San Jose, CA
"Her wonderful recording of the 6th in E major is still available. I have it in the wonderful box set, "The Art of Alicia de Laroccha". It is my favorite recording of that particular Suite."

And still in release--- thanks for the tip, Myra.

Purely as a sidelight, it seems to me that Keith Emerson used part of the French Suites on one of the early Emerson, Lake, and Palmer albums. Maybe ELP, maybe Tarkus; it's been a long time. Played on the Moog, or maybe it was an ARP synth; a very new sound at the time, but a masterful job of playing. He was conservatory-trained musician who jumped the tracks.

I had a dream the other night that Bach materialized in my livingroom, transported who knows how from his time to mine. I didn't know how to talk to him (not knowing German), didn't know what to feed him, what to give him to wear... and then there was the problem of how to get him in a situation where he could have the opportunities to play and compose and perform. It must have been a long dream. So vivid. Luckily I had sheet music, including quite a bit of his. I do remember he liked my piano...
_________________________
Clef


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#1242245 - 08/02/09 08:43 PM Re: Bach's French Suites [Re: Jeff Clef]
jnod Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/04/09
Posts: 794
Loc: Toronto
When I was a kid I kept a journal about music - practises, recitals, things I was having difficulty with or was interested in etc. I used to address it "Dear Johann". This kind of thing explains why I got my arse kicked in the playground so often....
_________________________
Justin
-------
Bach English Suite #5
Scarlatti Sonata K141 . L422
Mozart Sonata K333
Schubert Impromptu opus 90 D899
Schubert Moment Musicaux opus 94 D780

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