Performance Friday, November 7, 2014 | 7:30 PM

Academy of Ancient Music

Zankel Hall
In his four orchestral suites, Bach revealed the expressive potential of the Baroque orchestra and created the finest purely instrumental music of his day. It’s music that is festive (the First Suite’s exuberant bourrées), elegant (the stately menuets of the Fourth Suite), tender (the famous Air from the Third Suite), and virtuosic (the Second Suite’s Badinerie). The Academy of Ancient Music, lauded by The Times (London) for its “spunky, beautifully polished performances,” is led by director Richard Egarr.


  • Academy of Ancient Music
    Richard Egarr, Director and Harpsichord


  • Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major
  • Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor
  • Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major
  • Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major


Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068 (Air)
Academy of Ancient Music

At a Glance

Although Bach had access to top-notch instrumental ensembles both early and late in his career, the competing demands placed on him as a court and church musician meant that he wrote comparatively few works for orchestra. The varied instrumentation of his six “Brandenburg” concertos—which date from his short but conspicuously happy tenure as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen—is mirrored in the orchestration of the four suites, or “ouvertures,” that he composed between the early 1720s and the late 1730s and showcased on the famous public concerts that he presented for patrons of Zimmermann’s coffeehouse in Leipzig.

Bach became director of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum in 1729 and served in that capacity on and off until the early 1740s. As a master keyboard player and highly proficient violinist, he was well equipped to fill the role of orchestra conductor. His son Carl Philipp Emanuel testified that he “could take in all the simultaneously sounding parts” of an orchestral score “at a glance”; moreover, his ear was so acute that he could “detect the slightest error even in the largest ensembles.”

The orchestral suites combine Bach’s contrapuntal genius with the lighter touch illustrated by the incorporation of traditional and contemporary dances. Above all, they demonstrate his gift for formal invention and shapely melody, notably in the ever-popular “Air” for strings from the Third Suite.
This performance is part of Baroque Unlimited.

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