Enjoy the video

Bach Series

Joanna Butler Harpsichord

BACH Nº 10
Joanna Butler performs the Sarabande from JS Bach's English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808

Enjoyed this performance?
Share it with friends.

PROGRAM NOTES

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

ENGLISH SUITE NO. 3 IN G MINOR, BWV 808
Sarabande

JS Bach’s set of six ‘English’ suites for solo harpsichord remains a seminal work in the modern repertoire for keyboard players. However, as no autograph manuscript survives several tantalising ideas and misconceptions surround the collection.

Firstly, the title of ‘English Suites’ does not appear to have come from Bach himself. Johann Nicolaus Forkel, Bach’s first biographer, was the editor responsible at the start of the nineteenth century for the first publication of the collection titled, Grandes suites dites angloises pour le clavecin – literally translated, ‘Great suites called English for harpsichord’.

The English reference appears to stem from surviving manuscripts, including one copied by Bach’s youngest son, Johann Christian, who wrote ‘fait pour les anglois’ on the title page. This reference may have been misinterpreted by Forkel, who also suggests in his now-famous biography that the collection was composed by JS Bach for ‘an Englishman of rank’. Later scholarly inquiry has shown Johann Christian’s title only applies to the opening suite of the collection in A major. Sometime between 1709 and 1714, JS Bach copied a set of six suites for solo harpsichord by Charles Dieupart, a Frenchman working in London at the time. Dieupart’s works clearly left an impression on Bach; stylistic similarities exist between the two collections, and Bach also used one of Dieupart’s gigues as the basis for his A major prelude.

Another common misconception stems from Bach’s use of extensive preludes at the opening of each suite, as opposed to the Allemandes that open all six of his ‘French’ suites. Given the persuasive nationalistic titles of both collections, erroneous stylistic parallels are sometimes drawn when in fact both collections are a wonderful synthesis of German, Italian and French elements composed by arguably the most masterful craftsman of music.

Like many of the Brandenburg’s talented musicians, Joanna Butler first discovered JS Bach’s music at an early age:

Quote
Since I started playing music at the age of 7, JS Bach has been a composer from whom I have always had a piece to play, even if I was not always able to comprehend the music. Starting with very simple dance pieces that he wrote for his children, then more advanced works and finally pieces that demanded a lot from a player, I eventually grew to understand and fall in love with his music.

The English Suite No. 3 brings me back to the times when I was a university student and decided to play something not often performed by other keyboard players. The whole G minor suite, as for all the suites in that collection, has its own character. Bach equipped each of the suites with an amazing Sarabande, and some of them have written-out ornamented repeats.

Bach’s ornamentation is never just a random bunch of notes placed together on a piece of paper. It is very carefully thought out, based on an idea that fits with the harmonic structure of the piece. Along with many of his other works, the written-out ornamentations in the English suites are some of the most brilliant musical examples that show us exactly how those things were done back then. They give us a rare glimpse into how Bach himself likely improvised at his organ and harpsichord recitals.
JOANNA BUTLER

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR
An incredibly important facet of historically informed performance practice revolves around tempo, or how quickly one should play a piece. Although this Sarabande from the English Suite No. 3 in G minor does respect the characteristic rhythm, it would be unplayable in the tempo at which it ought to be danced. The music has a serious,  almost solemn nature and, as mentioned above by Joanna Butler, Bach also adds extensive ornamentation, reinforcing the expressive power of the piece.

 


BACH SERIES PRESENTING PARTNER

Program Notes: Joanna Butler & Hugh Ronzani, 2020
Image Credit: Katelyn-Jane Dunn, 2020

Listen

Discover More

JOANNA BUTLER

Joanna studied piano in her native Poland where she graduated with a Diploma of Music from the Music High School at Zdunska Wola and it was while studying there that she became interested in early music.

After moving to Australia, Joanna commenced her harpsichord studies with Monika Kornel and continued with Neal Peres da Costa at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. In 2007, she received a scholarship from the University of Sydney to study at the Royal College of Music in London with harpsichordist Terence Charlston and completed her Bachelor of Music (Performance) in June 2009.

By attending many music camps and masterclasses in both Australia and Europe, Joanna has further developed her knowledge and experience in historical performance. She has taken the opportunity to learn from such renowned musicians as Nicholas Parle, Rachel Brown, Jane Gower, Peter Holman, Ashley Solomon, Elisabeth Wallfisch and Jan Willem de Vriend.

She has performed with many groups on both harpsichord and chamber organ in Australia and Europe, including Sydney Conservatorium Early Music Ensemble, New Cologne Philharmonia, RCM Baroque Orchestra, Tall Poppeas, Sounds Baroque, Sydney Consort, St James’ King St, Sydney Chamber Choir, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Gondwana Choirs, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.

Joanna is always eager to discover and learn as much as she can about the music of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Currently working with Paul Dyer in the Artistic Department of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and enjoying teaching harpsichord, Joanna also loves cooking and sharing meals with family and friends.

Biography: Joanna Butler, 2020
Image Credit: Steven Godbee

 

HARPSICHORD

My Flemish Double harpsichord that I have used for the recording was made by one of the best instrument makers in Australia – Carey Beebe, in Sydney in 1982. Originally, the instrument was commissioned for Flinders Street School of Music at Adelaide TAFE, which merged with Elder Conservatorium in 2001, and I was lucky to purchase it in 2013.

The instrument has two 56-note bone keyboards, with a compass GG–d''' in A415/A440. The four stops, 2 X 8’, 1 X 4’ and a buff, are fitted with tapered wooden jacks with natural Celcon plectra and strung in Malcolm Rose wire. It has a hand-painted green exterior, gilded mouldings with papered keywell, soundboard rim and lid interior. The soundboard painting is by Carol Zdesar. The harpsichord sits on a turned mahogany stand.

Instrument Notes: Joanna Butler, 2020
Image Credit: Katelyn-Jane Dunn, 2020

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH

Born 21 March 1685 in Eisenach
Died 28 July 1750 in Leipzig
Childhood (1685–1703)
Weimar, Arnstadt, and Mühlhausen (1703–1708)
Return to Weimar (1708–1717)
Köthen (1717–1723)
Leipzig (1723–1750)

Image Credit: Berlin State Library 

FROM THE MANUSCRIPT

The image above of the Sarabande from English Suite No. 3 in G minor comes from an undated manuscript copied by Johann Christian Bach, JS Bach’s youngest son. The manuscript, presumably produced while Johann Christian was in London c.1760-1789, is now currently held in the Leipzig University Library.

FROM OUR PRESENTING PARTNER APA GROUP

APA is proud to support the Brandenburg Bach Series. Arts and entertainment are important to Australia’s diverse culture and economy. During the COVID-19 pandemic these sectors and the artists, musicians, creatives and makers at its core, have been particularly hard hit. Innovation like this online series of recitals is evidence of their innovation and resilience. It will sustain and broaden audiences for this music long into the future.

Image Credit: Katelyn Jane-Dunn, 2020

Keep watching

5m

Available 4 Dec

BACH Nº 12
Don't miss James Armstrong perform the Preludio from JS Bach's Partita No. 3 in E major for solo violin, BWV 1006

5m

Available 6 Nov

BACH Nº 11
Don't miss Monique O'Dea perform the Double (from Sarabande) from JS Bach's Partita No. 1 in B minor for solo violin, BWV 1002, transcribed for viola in E minor

4m

Matthew Greco Baroque Violin

BACH Nº 9
Matthew Greco performs the Allegro from Sonata No. 2 in A minor for solo violin, BWV 1003

6m

Anthea Cottee Baroque Cello

BACH Nº 8
Anthea Cottee performs the Courante and Sarabande from JS Bach's Suite No. 1 in G major for solo cello, BWV 1007

4m

Mikaela Oberg Baroque Flute

BACH Nº 7
Mikaela Oberg performs the Corrente from JS Bach's Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013

6m

Marianne Yeomans Baroque Viola

BACH Nº 6
Marianne Yeomans performs the Allemanda from JS Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004, transcribed for viola in G minor

13m

Rafael Font Baroque Violin

BACH Nº 5
Rafael Font performs the Grave & Fuga from JS Bach's Sonata No. 2 in A minor for solo violin, BWV 1003

5m

Anthea Cottee Baroque Cello

BACH Nº 4
Anthea Cottee performs the Allemande from JS Bach's Suite No. 1 in G major for solo cello, BWV 1007

4m

Melissa Farrow Baroque Flute

BACH Nº 3
Melissa Farrow performs the Bourée Anglaise from JS Bach's Partita in A minor for solo flute, BWV 1013

4m

Tommie Andersson Gallichon

BACH Nº 2
Tommie Andersson performs the Sarabande from JS Bach's Partita No. 1 in B minor for solo violin, BWV 1002, transcribed for Gallichon

6m

Paul Dyer Harpsichord

BACH Nº 1
Paul Dyer performs Prelude No. 1 in C major & Improvisation from JS Bach's Well‑Tempered Clavier, BWV 846