Bach to Suite Lute Basics

 

For every instrument, Johann Sebastian Bach is the high point of its repertoire, and the guitar is no different.

Bach wrote 4 suites for the lute (a “guitar like” instrument) that transfers very well to the guitar. In fact, Bach actually never wrote for the guitar but guitar players are fortunate to have access to Bach thru these lute suites.

 

 

A few years ago I felt that I’d like to set myself the challenge of learning all 4 of Bach’s Lute Suites.

Of course it’s been very difficult!

I’ve had to work hard but I’ve really enjoyed the challenge and I’ve certainly grown as a musician by extending myself through these great Baroque masterpieces.

Trinity College London has graded this Bourée at 8th grade and has included it in the current syllabus, so through this piece we can see and get a feel for what 8th grade standard is.

“I always enjoy finding out these little facts, in a way it makes me feel like I can actually touch the past through them”

 

What is the “Baroque Suite”?

A suite is a set or collection of of matching things, like a set or “suite of furniture” so the Baroque Suite is a set of pieces based on the popular court dances of the period.

Baroque Dance

 

The Baroque period is said to be 1600-1750 and those dances:

  • Allemande – a German dance
  • Courante – an Italian dance
  • Sarabande – a Spanish dance
  • Gigue – from Britain and spelt Jig in English.

The Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue in the suites are not meant to be danced to in this context. They were to be listened to and enjoyed. They’re call “character pieces” in that they are in the character of Allemande, Courante, Sarabande & Gigue.

 

There are 5 great periods of music

  • Renaissance 1400-1600
  • Baroque 1600-1750
  • Classical period 1750-1830
  • Romantic period 1800’s – 20th century

 

So if Louis 14 had invited you to court at Versailles for a big occasion you would would have danced these dances?

I always enjoy finding out these little facts, in a way it makes me feel like I can actually touch the past through them.

The later Baroque saw the introduction of 3 new dances Minuet, Gavotte & the Bouree hence our piece was a later Baroque form.

It’s from the 4th Lute Suite BWV 1006a which is also the 3rd Violin Partita.

That begs the question…did Bach write it for the violin and transcribe it for the Lute? or did he compose it for the Lute and transcribe it for violin?

See you at 8th grade!

Steve.