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JS Bach

Instrumental Works

Suites and Partitas

Bach's clavier suites show the influence of French and Italian as well as of German models. There are three sets of six suites each: the French and English Suites, composed at Cüthen, and the six Partitas published separately between 1726 and 1730 and then collected in 1731 as Part of the Clavier Übung. Part II of the Clavier Übung also contains a large Partita in B minor, entitled "Overture in the French style for a harpsichord with two manuals."

The designations French and English for the suites composed at Cüthen are not Bach's own, and have no descriptive significance. The suites in both sets consist of the standard four dance movements (allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue) with additional short movements between the sarabande and gigue; each of the English suites opens with a prelude. Some of these preludes illustrate particularly well the skill with which Bach transferred Italian ensemble forms to the keyboard: the prelude to the third suite, for example, is a concerto Allegro movement with alternating tutti and ritornellos. (An even more striking adaptation of the concerto form is the Concerto in the Italian Style, a harpsichord piece which utilizes the two manuals of the instrument to emphasize the tutti-solo contrasts.) The dances in the English suites are based on French models, and include several examples of the double or ornamented repetition of a movement. In the French suites, the second movement is more often an Italian courante than a French courante.

Most of the dances, especially those in the partitas, are stylized to a high degree; they represent the ultimate in this Baroque form. The preludes of the partitas range through various forms and types of late Baroque keyboard music, as the titles indicate: Praeludium, Praeambulum, Sinfonia (in three movements), Fantasia, Ouverture, and Toccata. 

Organ Music. Bach's early works, pre-Weimar, through his late works at Leipzig.

String Keyboard (clavier) music. Covers the Bach's significant pieces.

The Well-Tempered Clavier. The best known of Bach's clavier works.

Suites and Partitas. Bach's clavier suites and partitas.

Goldberg Variations. This aria with thirty variations is representative of Baroque theme and variations.
Solo music for other instruments. Compositions primarily from Bach's period in Cöthen including his cello suites.

Orchestral music. Examples of Baroque concertos and suites, including Air on the G String and the Brandenburg Concertos.

Inventions and Sinfonia. Two sets of fifteen contrapuntal pieces written for teaching purposes.
Canons. Bach's canonic variations.

Musical Offering. Based on a theme given to Bach by Frederick the Great.

Art of Fugue. Bach's final collection of fugues and canons.

Unfinished fugue. Last in the Art of Fugue, this fugue is formed from the letters of Bach's name.