Performance Monday, February 9, 2015 | 7:30 PM

Richard Egarr

Weill Recital Hall
Both Bach and Handel—two Baroque giants—were virtuosos and master improvisers, but Handel’s keyboard music has been eclipsed by his other works. In his E-Minor Suite, Handel spins tightly intertwined melodic lines before releasing a storm of notes in an energetic closing Gigue. Bach’s partitas and French suites have been touchstones for keyboardists for centuries. While they follow the conventions of the Baroque dance suite, he raised this form to its highest level with brilliant flights of invention and inspired melodies.

Part of Salon Encores.


  • Richard Egarr, Harpsichord


  • BACH French Suite No. 5 in G Major
  • BACH Partita No. 6 in E Minor
  • BACH Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major
  • HANDEL Suite No. 3 in D Minor

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


Bach's French Suite No. 5 in G (Gavotte)
Richard Egarr, Harpsichord

At a Glance

Although Bach and Handel were both virtuoso harpsichordists and organists and consummate improvisers on their instruments, Handel wrote far less keyboard music than Bach. This, in part, reflects the trajectories of their respective careers: Bach spent most of his life as a hardworking church musician in Germany, while the London-based Handel was Europe’s preeminent composer of operas. Yet both men made major contributions to the genre of the harpsichord suite. Handel’s debut volume of suites, published in 1720, was a bestseller, as were the six partitas that Bach collected in 1731 as the first installment of his magisterial Clavier-Übung, or Keyboard Practice.

Comparisons between the two Baroque masters are inevitably somewhat tendentious. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach—himself a brilliant composer and keyboard player, but hardly an impartial critic—awarded the palm to his father. “In Handel’s suites,” he wrote, “there is considerable imitation of the French manner of the period, and there is not much variety; in the parts of Bach’s Clavier-Übung, all is originality and variety. The melody of the arias with variations in Handel’s suites is flat and for our times far too simple. Bach’s arias with variations are still good today: they are original and will accordingly not easily become outdated.”

Handel, too, had his contemporary partisans, however, and today we recognize that both composers had a claim to genius. By juxtaposing one of Handel’s greatest harpsichord suites with three of Bach’s, Richard Egarr encourages us to appreciate the differences and similarities between these two Baroque masters.
This performance is part of Early Music in Weill Recital Hall.

Part of