Work: Suite for Orchestra no 2: Badinerie
About This Work
In is unknown when exactly Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his Suite for Orchestra No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067. It is a vibrant and fast-paced work, leaning towards the entertainment side of pure music. This suite is one of four such works that the
composer wrote in his lifetime. Bach was not even slightly opposed to writing music for more money or power, but was less forthcoming with light music; he did not like it much. All of the lighter music he wrote was never published, including these overtures. (Telemann, the most famous composer working in Germany at the time, wrote over 130 surviving suites for orchestra, and probably wrote over 1000 in his lifetime.) These works were good for business, but Bach was more comfortable writing church music or works featuring striking fugal challenges. This suite gave him a chance to write for transverse flute, which had just begun to be in fashion. These four works are fine examples of a lighter style and display some of the interesting ways that Bach would use to approach the festive side of music making. The suite is a form derived from a collection of French ballets and operas. They usually begin with an overture, regal and poised, followed by a collection of dances. French music and culture was the rage for much of Germany and other European countries. However, Bach's ear seems to have been more easily fixed on Italy. The music of Vivaldi and the Scarlattis (father and son) are constantly asserting themselves in Bach's music. He seems to have been attracted to the Italian brilliance of harmony, and the way they could make speedy ostinatos inject more excitement into an already lively beat. It was simply the most visceral music in Europe at the time, and when Bach added it to anything, sparks flew. In his Suite for Orchestra No. 2 one can hear Vivaldi's concerto style in the Sarabande and the Minuet. Nothing is turgid about this piece. It was probably written around 1720, certainly before 1723, when he began work at Leipzig. He was usually too busy to write much secular music, unless it was of very high quality. Listeners should not shy away from these orchestral suites because they are not aching with the profundity of Art of Fugue; they are simply charming, summery pieces.
- John Keillor
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