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About the program

In Baroque times a much-loved form was the suite or (similar in meaning) the partita, a collection of dances in the same key. Besides for suites for orchestra, Bach wrote suites and partitas for solo instruments: violin, harpsichord and cello. In general, six suites belong to this category. Dénes Várjon, Kristóf Baráti and Miklós Perényi have each chosen one of these pieces.

The origin of the name English Suites is obscure. According to Forkel, Bach’s first biographer, the six compositions were commissioned by a distinguished Englishman. The copy autographed “J. Chr. Bach” would allude to this. Another explanation maintains that the pieces betray a kinship to both Handel’s piano suites, which appeared in 1720, and the suite in A flat by Charles Dieupart, who also resided in London. (This comparison applies to Bach’s first English suite, which is in the same key as Dieupart’s work.) Bach himself insinuated his work Suite avec Prélude (Suite with Prelude) into the series, indicating by its title the difference between English and French suites.

Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin could have been written for an outstanding violinist, since their technical and musical techniques posed a significant challenge then, too.  Performance difficulties notwithstanding, the musical poet’s priority may not have been a technical challenge, but an intellectual one: how to produce maximum expression with minimal audible means.

A group of musicians discovered Johann Sebastian Bach’s solo suites for cello quite late, at the end of the 19th century, thanks to Pablo Casals. Unfortunately, Bach’s original manuscripts for the solo cello suites have not survived, only copies by contemporaries – from the quills of Anna Magdalena Bach and Johann Peter Kellner – as well as two later, anonymous copies from the end of the 18th century. As for the creation of the six solo suites for cello, the exact time and circumstances are unknown. For a while, researchers even argued whether Bach intended the suites for cello at all – in particular, the fifth suite in C minor exists in a version for lute in G minor.  Presumably, the solo pieces for cello were produced in Köthen, so between 1717 and 1723. At this period in Bach’s life, he was not burdened with sacred music endeavours, he had an excellent court orchestra at his disposal, and a music-loving prince of refined tastes encouraged his composition of instrumental music.

This event is co-produced by Budapest Festival Orchestra and the Palace of the Arts.


990 HUF


English suite in A minor, BWV 807
Violin partita in D minor, BWV 1004
Cello suite in C major, BWV 1009


Dénes Várjon – piano
Kristóf Baráti – violin
Miklós Perényi– cello