Bach’s English Suite #1

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J.S. Bach wrote in many styles, his strong belief in his religion’s god, adds a good measure to the image of Bach as a composer of Christian music, not to say religious composer, and if not to such extent, then at least a spiritual composer, who took on spiritual and religious themes. To Goldberg Variations, many attach a spiritual domain, yet the piece was written essentially as a substitute for sleeping pill for a count, and Bach would have laughed probably at the idea of Goldberg Variations as being spiritual, given the purpose for which the music was written for. Yet in suite #1, after hearing the recording for many times, looking at the score, listening and thinking about the piece, I felt that the piece was telling me something more than chord progression, something about its form suggested something was hidden. Once I agreed to follow that way, the piece was much clearer and comprehensible. What I came across was the idea of god and man.

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In the Prelude the first statement in the bass, is god’s statement, to which man has a longer statement. A chord is sustained and built from various points and over time, it has taken man all this time to achieve its `verticality’ its `complete structures’. To me the most interesting of all was the meaning of the sixteenth note followed by the quarter note beginning of the Allemande. What could be the purpose of such a rhythm in the beginning of this movement. I could make no sense of it, especially as the texture becomes more and more complex, so much so, that the beginning of the Allemande, with its simple two note figure seems almost forgotten, unrelated, altogether a part of a different movement. Having the idea of god and man, the music became related to the beginning, if the sixteenth note represents god, and the quarter note represents man, this small note value, becomes the focal point, not merely a pick-up note, but rather as an entity which is established before all, it is the departure point of the movement, not just a weak note that is barely heard.


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