Three on Three
Bach: Orchestral Suite No 3
in D major, BWV 1068
Haydn: Symphony No 3 in G major
Beethoven: Symphony No 3 in E-flat major, Op 55 "Eroica"
Allegro con brio
Marcia funebre - Adagio assai
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) wrote well over 1100 compositions. His works have been catalogued in a registry called the The Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue). The prefix BWV, followed by the work's number, is the shorthand identification for Bach's compositions. Since it is nearly impossible to know precisely the year in which a Bach work was composed, his works are grouped by type or theme, not by year. As a result, the four orchestral suites, or overtures, attributed to Bach are grouped together in his catalog although they were without question written at different stages in his career. They are designated as BWV 1066-1069. Like other German composers of the Baroque period, Bach sought to keep abreast of the music fashions of his day by studying the scores of Italians such as Antonio Vivaldi and the French such as Jean-Baptiste Lully(1632-1687), an Italian-born composer who spent much of his life in the court of French king Louis XIV.
The orchestral suites of Bach's era grew out of the ouverture as developed by Lully and other French composers. Ouverture referred to any piece of music used to introduce an opera or a ballet, for example, or an act of either. The Lully ouverture which became the standard was characterized by a slow opening, followed by a faster second section, with a third and final section which recapitulated the opening material and rhythm. Toward the end of Lully's life, the ouverture expanded to include the overture plus any dance movements that followed it. It is this stage of development that German composers took as their model. Georg Muffat and Johann Sigimund Kusser, both students of Lully, laid the foundations for the German Ouvertüren of Bach and his contemporaries Georg Philipp Telemann and Georg Frederick Händel, among others.
It is not known with certainty that Bach completed more than the four Overtures, or orchestral suites, of record, but his fascination with the Lullian form is evident as it appears many times in his cantatas as well as some of his keyboard works. His four orchestral suites, however, are his supreme contribution to the Lullian legacy. The best scholarly guesses to dates of composition are given to those years Bach served as music director of the Leipzig "Collegium Musicum", a largely student society which had been formed shortly before the turn of the eighteenth century. Some of this music seems to have been assembled for performance by this student body of musicians with whom Bach was on the best of terms.
The Suite No 3 in D major, BWV 1068 is a five-movement piece that has enjoyed greater popularity than the other three, for it contains the celebrated Air on the G string. In the Overture, the violin provides the concertante instrument as it alternates with the tuttis in the fast frugal section. This movement is followed by the famous Air which serves as a bridge between the radiant overture and the colors of the dance movements which follow.
Program Notes © William H Driver and Clinton Symphony Orchestra Association