J S Bach English Suite no 3 in G minor BWV 808

J S Bach English Suite no 3 in G minor BWV 808

The Prélude that opens this suite pecks away in the treble, soon finding itself propelled by a roiling bass line. This more fluid left-hand material frequently influences the right hand, although the pecking motif continues to reassert itself. Throughout, Bach maintains a sense of unstoppable forward motion. Things ease off with the Allemande, which sounds searching and active despite its more measured pace. The theme includes a little turn that seems related to the Prélude, although this is not necessarily intentional; Bach may have written the movements separately at fairly wide intervals before assigning them to specific suites. The Allemande’s second section provides, in effect, a slight variation on the same basic material. The Courante, in triple meter, is even more sober, and gently exercises Bach’s contrapuntal skills. The next movement, a Sarabande, is not only sober but somber, its initially spare line becoming increasingly ornate, partly at the taste of the performer. It’s also up to the harpsichordist whether this comes across as tender or majestic music; its nature on paper is rather ambiguous. A Gavotte suddenly brightens the mood, although the music remains in the minor mode and in moderate tempo. A second, rustic Gavotte makes a brief appearance before the first is repeated. A restless Gigue concludes this set, Bach’s counterpoint so insistent that it clouds the dance’s traditional, and usually quite obvious, dotted rhythm.

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