All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major

BWV 1068 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Lars Ulrik Mortensen
Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam

"The Air is describing a kind of beauty that we don't see anymore."

With a certain Air

Splendour and elegance is followed by festivities.

If it was already an anachronism to stick the word ‘orchestral’ onto this festive suite, Lars Ulrik Mortensen now goes one step further – tearing the label off the score, throwing it resolutely in the bin and reducing the instrumentation to a minimum. There is, of course, no symphonic crowd in this performance, but neither do trumpets, timpani or even oboes put in an appearance, as Bach only added these instruments around 1730. Mortensen does not regret the loss of the timbre of the wind instruments in the least. Played only by strings, the work sounds trim and transparent; precisely how the controversial Dane likes it.

The well-known Corellian Air brought justifiable fame to the suite – how subtly the second violins and violas caress one another! – but the opening section is the real attraction. In Bach’s interpretation, the French overture à la Jean-Baptiste Lully is incredibly long, and the first violin unexpectedly takes up soloist space in the fast sections. The following four dances, which together form not even half the whole piece, are rather simpler than Bach’s models. These energetic smaller parts have a ‘rustic’ effect, in Mortensen’s view. Put simply – the splendour and elegance is followed by festivities!

Orchestral Suites, BWV 1066-1069
Although it is tempting to talk of the Four Orchestral Suites, it could well be the case that Bach wrote another one or two, or even ten of them. Because unlike the ‘Brandenburg’ Concertos, these Four Orchestral Suites are not related to one another. Specialists like Joshua Rifkin even regard them as arrangements of pieces from other genres. Bach simply wrote presentable festive music for the wealthy courts of Weimar and Cöthen; occasional music that later found a new home in the repertoire of the Collegium Musicum.

Bach’s Suites (series of stylised dances) exude the style and atmosphere of the dance music written by Lully at the court of Louis the Fourteenth. Nowadays, we call this a suite, but at the time it was known as an Overture, or opening piece. As a tribute to the king, such a succession of dances began with a stately opening that had a remarkably staccato rhythm – to which the king could make his entrance – followed by a somewhat faster, fugal middle section.

One interesting hypothesis about the relative dearth of suites by Bach is that he could not master the genre sufficiently. The model came directly from the Paris of Lully and would brook no competition. Particularly the pompous overture – with its slow-quick-slow, fugal middle section and ‘French’ rhythms – is typical… and maybe too restrictive for our young German Kapellmeister.


BWV
1068

title
Ouverture in D major

epithet
Orchestral Suite No. 3

genre
orchestral work (suite)

Year
unknown

City
Weimar/Cöthen?

Special notes
This suite has been handed down to us in a version with wind instruments (oboes, trumpets and timpani). Scholars suspect that Bach added the wind parts later, meaning that there was an original version just for strings.

Cast & Crew

release date 17 May 2019
recording date 15 October 2017
location Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam
conductor and harpsichord Lars Ulrik Mortensen
violin 1 Shunske Sato, Emily Deans, Lidewij van der Voort
violin 2 Anneke van der Haaften, Paulien Kostense, Annabelle Ferdinand
viola Deirdre Dowling, Femke Huizinga
Cello Lucia Swarts, Barbara Kernig
double bass James Munro
director Lucas van Woerkum
music recording Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Jochem Timmerman, Martin Struijf, Thijs Struick
Lights Zen Bloot
assistant director Stijn Berkhouwer
set technique Dennis Hoek
Data handling Jesper Blok
project manager NEP Peter Ribbens
Interview Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
Producer concert Marco Meijdam
producer film Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts

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