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j.s. bach - the six partitas


Partita # key opening piece allemande corrente aria sarabande menuet and/or free piece gigue
1 B-flat Praeludium Allemande Corrente - Sarabande Menuet I ,Menuet II Giga
2 C-minor Sinfonia Allemande Courante - Sarabande Rondeaux, Capriccio -
3 A-minor Fantasia Allemande Corrente - Sarabande Burlesca,Scherzo Gigue
4 D-major Ouverture Allemande Courante Aria Sarabande Menuet Gigue
5 G-major Praeambulum Allemande Corrente - Sarabande Tempo di Minuetto, Passepied Gigue
6 E-minor Toccata Allemanda Corrente Air Sarabande Tempo di Gavotta Gigue

About the 6 Partitas

The six Partita's- also known as German Suites - are among the few works that were printed during Bach's lifetime. They are indeed, as their designation as Opus 1 indicates, the very first work which the composer himself destined for publication. Following the example of his predecessor in the post of Cantor to the Thomas Church, Johann Kuhnau, whose collection of Partitas was widely known at the time (published in two bundles in1689/1692), Bach described his own work as "Partitas", and gave them the collective title of "Clavir Ubung", which he also, employed for the Italian Concerto, the Ouverture in B-minor, the Catechism Chorales known as the "Orgelmesse", the 4 Duets, and the Goldberg Variations, works the publication of which extend to 1742.

In 1726 Bach published Partita I (in Bb) of his "Clavir Ubung". On september 12th of the same year Princesse Charlotte, the 2nd wife of Prince Leopold, presented her husband with a son, the Hereditary Prince Emeanuel Ludwig of Anhalt-Köthen. Bach took advantage of the occasion to make a careful copy of this Partita and "with most humble devotion" to lay it before the cradle of the "Serenest Infant Prince", together with a copy of dedicatory verses, presumably of his own composition. In 1727 followed Partitas II in C minor and III in A minor, in 1728 Partita IV in D major. Partita V in G major and probably also Partita VI in E minor appeared in 1730.

Shortly after the appearance of the last Partita Bach collected the six parts of the work into a volume of 73 pages, which was issued in 1731 as "Clavir Ubung, bestehend in Praeludien, Allemanden, Couranten, Sarabanden, Giguen, menuetten, und andern Galanterien, denen Liebhabern zur Gemüths Ergoetzung verfertiget, von Johann Sebastian Bach, Hochfürstl. Sächsisch-Weisenfelsischen Würcklichen Capellmeistern und Directore Chori Musici Lipsiensis. OPUS 1, In verlegung des Autoris. 1731". For this collected edition the plates of the separate editions were used, only the consecutive pagination and the superscriptions of the separate Partitas being newly engraved.It is to be presumed that Bach, who was his own publisher though not his own engraver, did not cover his expenses. A part of his first and only edition he handed over to a Leipzig bookseller to dispose of.

(source: Kurt Soldan, translation from Cecil B. Oldman)

A nice detail:
Bach signed OPUS 1 with his autogram (b-a-c-h) which is hidden in the first two parts of the first Partita: the Praeludium has 21 (=BA) bars, the following Allemande has 38 (=CH) bars. Together it reads 2138, the BACH-number.
More on Bach & Numbers here (TvS)