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Monday, June 18, 2012

ARCHIVE  •  2012  •  SUN 17  •  MON 18  •  WED 20  •  FRI 22  •  SUN 24

Renée & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 8 p.m.

Simone Dinnerstein in Recital

Presented jointly with the
Philharmonic Society of Orange County

Simone Dinnerstein, piano


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
French Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV 816

Allemande
Courante
Sarabande
Gavotte
Bourrée
Loure
Gigue


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826

Sinfonia
Allemande
Courante
Sarabande
Rondeau
Capriccio

Intermission


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808

Prelude
Allemande
Courante
Sarabande
Gavotte I
Gavotte II
Gigue


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Partita No. 1 in B-flat major, BWV 825

Prelude
Allemande
Courante
Sarabande
Minuets I & II
Gigue
Allegretto


Johann Sebastian Bach never composed even one piece for the piano. The opportunity never presented itself. In the 1720s and 1730s, when Bach composed most of his keyboard music, the piano was a brand-new invention, actually still a prototype under development in the Italian city of Florence. As Bach lived half a continent away in central Germany, he knew nothing of the new instrument, and never composed for it.

Lacking a piano, he composed instead for the harpsichord, the clavichord, and the instrument of which he was master, the organ. In the scoring for these works, he generally indicated the solo instrument as a “clavier,” a generic term that meant anything with a keyboard. Contemporary pianists, in approaching the music of Bach, must adapt these works to their own, modern instruments. Although they have more power and range at their disposal, they lack a certain Baroque delicacy, and only the finest pianists can find a happy medium between those two extremes.

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A s Bach never set foot outside his native Germany, one might fairly wonder why the catalog of his works contains a set of French Suites, another of English Suites, and one single Italian Concerto. The fact that he was no traveler did not preclude him from being familiar with other nations’ musical quirks and using them in his own compositions.

The French Suites, completed by 1723, follow that nation’s tendency toward grouping together various movements reflecting the rhythms of popular ballroom dances. The different dances offer a range of moods, and in some cases, various national spirits. Spanish sarabandes and German allemandes both tend to be smooth, graceful, and on the slow side. The French courante, by contrast, has changeable rhythms that require close attention from the performer. On the brisker side, one finds passepieds, bourrées, gavottes and gigues, each of which explores the more spirited style of dancing. BACK

There is nothing particularly English about the English Suites, which seem to date from the 1720s. Bach’s first biographer, J. N. Forkel, suggested that they had been intended for an English gentleman. Admittedly, there is no such surviving testimony from Bach himself; yet, for lack of any other designation, they are known as the English Suites. In Bach’s time, a “suite” was an instrumental work of various contrasting movements in the styles of different ballroom dances, perhaps preceded by an introductory prelude. BACK

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Bach’s partitas for keyboard are a set of six, each in a different key, published together in 1731. Here he sets aside his usual role of church music composer and instead delves into a popular idea of the day, in which various dance-related movements are compiled into an evening’s entertainment. None of the partitas was as detailed in construction as a prelude and fugue. Rather than being music of intellectual complexity, the partitas were intended to be a pleasant diversion with various moods juxtaposed against each other from one movement to the next. BACK

Adapted from notes by Betsy Schwarm,
author of
Classical Music Insights

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