JS Bach: Orchestral Suites


Academy of Ancient Music

Year: 2014

Richard Egarr director & harpsichord

Bach’s Orchestral Suites are a series of grand and graceful dances, paying homage to the French baroque style as championed by the ballet-obsessed King Louis XIV. Written during Bach’s years in Leipzig, where he had a wider range of instruments at his disposal than ever before, the Suites revel in new sonorous possibilities and employ varied combinations of wind, brass, stringed instruments and timpani.

JS BACH Orchestral Suite No.1 in C major BWV1066 (c.1725)
JS BACH Orchestral Suite No.2 in B minor BWV1067 (c.1738-9)
JS BACH Orchestral Suite No.3 in D major BWV1068 (1731)
JS BACH Orchestral Suite No.4 in D major BWV1069 (c.1725)

Catalogue no: AAM003



Watch the Academy of Ancient Music perform the Orchestral Suites live, accompanied by an exclusive preview of one of the work’s spirited “ouvertures”.

Buy CD


BBC Radio 3
“Exuberant and full of vitality.”

Classic FM
Album of the week

The Observer
“The news of the death of Christopher Hogwood comes just as the orchestra he founded, the Academy of Ancient Music, releases a fine new set of Bach’s Orchestral Suites with his successor, Richard Egarr, repeating the one-to-a-part approach he adopted for their Harmonia Mundi Brandenburg set. The sound is consequently less expansive than other recordings but the rewards are glorious, with Egarr at the harpsichord driving the delightfully clean and springy rhythms, every detail sharply defined, each separate timbre there for us to enjoy. This intimate chamber approach allows the trumpets in Suites Nos.3 and 4 to glow rather than blast, and the exceptional flute of Rachel Brown to shine in all its woody-toned charm in Suite No.2. Highly recommended.”

Canberra Times
“Bach’s much-loved set of four orchestral suites here become virtuoso chamber works in the extremely accomplished hands of the Academy of Ancient Music, with director Richard Egarr leading from the harpsichord. Egarr uses only one player per part, which provides great clarity and flexibility, and especially allows the trumpets to shine while keeping the sonic balance. He resists what he calls the mounting competition to play the suites faster and more metronomically, instead providing naturally brisk tempi that allow the players clear articulation and satisfying interchange. The dance rhythms are lively and beautifully sprung. Violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk makes the famous Air on a G String from Suite 3 gloriously intimate and moving. This joyous account has instantly become my favourite version of the suites, and would be a great place to start for anyone wanting to get to know Bach. With the death of the orchestra’s founder and period-instrument pioneer Christopher Hogwood a few months ago it is marvellous to see this visionary band powering forward.”

The Scotsman
“There’s a poignancy in this latest Bach recording by the Academy of Ancient Music, given the recent death of its founding director Christopher Hogwood in September. And much of the spirit he gave it – clean rhythm, un-laboured tempi and crisp textures – feeds through these performances 
of the orchestral suites. There’s originality, too, in the use of one player per part, which not only opens up intimate perspectives on the music but allows the trumpets to shine through with unforced ease. Richard Egarr’s direction from the harpsichord is fresh and vital.” ★ ★ ★ ★

Financial Times
“The death of Christopher Hogwood was among the most notable losses in classical music during 2014. As founder of the Academy of Ancient Music, he was a leading pioneer of period instruments and it is good to see the AAM continuing to flourish under his successor, Richard Egarr, with this recording of Bach’s Orchestral Suites. By choosing to perform the Suites with just one instrument to each part, and at an unusually low pitch, Egarr is keeping alive the AAM’s reputation for fresh thinking. These are lively performances of individual piquancy and intimacy.” ★ ★ ★ ★

International Record Review
“There are several very good recordings of these pieces available, so competition is stiff — but Egarr and the AAM have found a thoroughly individual approach that is never quixotic and always inventive. This set is a joy from start to finish and it’s an exhilarating new front-runner in a crowded field.”

Fine Music Magazine
“Acquire this disc, enjoy its captivating attractiveness, agree with the rather fast Bourrées … There are other well-known dances to savour too. It’s a must-have CD and you’ll salivate as you listen to the wonderful musical effects.” ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Gramophone Magazine
“Exceptional … What I like about Egarr is the was middle voices are liberated and integrated into the overall texture, while the fugal ouvertures breeze along without the dubious benefit of rocket fuel. Take the main body of the opening movement of the First Suite: busy, it’s true, but light years removed from the more aggressive manner of some of its more recent rivals. The oboes, bassoons and strings intertwine easily, the sensation resembling animated conversation … In the Third Suite, after a vigorous and rousing Ouvertures, the celebrated Air really sings, Egarr’s tasteful continuo aiding the bass-line in pursuit of maximum expressive subtlety . . . The Second and most intimate of the Suites benefits from superb playing, Rachel Brown never hogging the limelight, which is appropriate given that her wind-playing colleagues match her standards throughout … All in all, a feast of meaningfully understated musicianship. I loved it.” Editor’s Choice

BBC Music Magazine
“A conspicuous feature of this new recording of Bach’s four orchestral suites, or ‘ouvertures’ as such suites in the Lullian tradition had become known in Germany, is one of graceful gesture. Richard Egarr, harpsichordist and director of the Academy of Ancient Music, has given careful thought to articulation and phrasing. These stylised movements which derive from French opera were not intended for dancing, yet Egarr’s understanding of them makes us want to do just that. Menuets and Gavottes are poised and unhurried while the Overtures themselves, with their resplendent opening measures and lively fugal discourses, sparkle with amiability. Just occasionally, though, it seemed to me that Egarr settled upon a tempo that did not quite convey the spirit of Bach’s writing. The unusually slow Bourée of the third Suite is a case in point.

In his interested booklet essay, Christoph Wolff reminds us that the B minor Suite (No.2), dating from the late 1730s, may well have been the composer’s last orchestral work. To some extent it bucks the French influence, synthesizing the French suite with the solo element of the Italian concerto. Soloist Rachel Brown gives a mellifluous performance with an intuitive application of ornament.

This is an engaging release, in which currently fashionable sound-barrier-breaking tempos are mercifully absent. One or two little insecurities in the oboes did little to dampen my enthusiasm.” ★ ★ ★ ★