Air from Suite No. 3, BWV 1068 “Air on the G String” (Bach)

This movement is the best known from all of J. S. Bach’s Orchestral Suites, and this arrangement brings out the beauty and complexity without much work!

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The four orchestral suites, BWV 1066–1069 were originally called ouvertures by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The name ouverture was used as a reference to the French overture, in which a majestic opening section in relatively slow dotted-note rhythm in duple meter is followed by a fast fugal section, then rounded off with a short recapitulation of the opening music. In Germany during the 1700s, the term was used for a suite of dance pieces of which the first movement was in the style of the French overture. This genre was extremely popular in Germany during Bach’s day, even though his surviving works seem to indicate that Bach wasn’t very interested in it.

The oldest source of the Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068, is a partially autographed set of parts from around 1730. Bach wrote out the first violin and continuo parts, His son, C. P. E. Bach, wrote out the trumpet, oboe, and timpani parts, and J. S. Bach’s student Johann Ludwig Krebs wrote out the second violin and viola parts.

An arrangement of the second movement of the suite, Air, by German violinist August Wilhelmj (1845–1908) became popularly known as Air on the G String because it could be played entirely upon that string on the violin.

This arrangement of that movement provides lots of left hand octave work, as well as contrapuntal playing within one hand. Historical data, including a facsimile of the 1 Violin part (in Sebastian’s handwriting) is included.

Key: D Major

Mood: gentle, moving, sweet, romantic.

Pedagogy: octaves, counterpoint within one hand, fingering


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