JS Bach - Complete English Suites | Chandos CHAN08262

JS Bach - Complete English Suites


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Label: Chandos

Cat No: CHAN08262

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 2

Genre: Instrumental

Release Date: 1st October 2021



Sophie Yates (harpsichord)


Bach, Johann Sebastian

English Suites (6), BWV806-811


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)


There is no surviving autograph manuscript of Bach’s ‘English’ Suites, and for such a set of magnificent pieces, an important and well-loved part of the baroque keyboard ‘canon’, surprisingly little is known about its history. What we do know is that the suites are amongst Bach’s earlier works – probably written in the second decade of the eighteenth century – and that the appellation ‘English’ was not given to them until the 1750s.

In order to understand these fascinating works on a deeper level, we have to appreciate the importance of dance in the cultural context of eighteenth-century Europe. As a social skill, the ability to dance correctly was considered so vital that every court had a Dancing Master, often French, who taught the different types of dances to aspiring courtiers. Because of this, dancing, and by extension the instrumental dance suite, was one of the factors contributing to French taste’s becoming a defining characteristic of the baroque style. As we know that the Dancing Master traditionally taught by playing tunes on the violin, it is quite possible that Bach’s own renditions of the dance forms were influenced by the playing of Jean-François Monjou – Dancing Master at the Cöthen court, where the young Johann Sebastian worked from 1717 until 1723. On that basis, acclaimed early keyboard specialist Sophie Yates has recorded these works on a double-manual Flemish harpsichord by Andrew Garlick, a copy of the petit ravalement instrument by Ioannes Ruckers, 1624, now at the Musée Unterlinden, Colmar, France.

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