Bach – Air

FP310 Johann Sebastian Bach Air Two Flutes and Piano Grade 5 4′ 30″ (with repeats)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) is considered by many cognoscenti to be not only the most skilful of all contrapuntists, but also to be the greatest composer who ever lived. Small wonder that his works are seriously studied by all students and professionals who wish to gain an insight into this most difficult branch of musical composition.

The Air constitutes the second movement of the Orchestral Suite (or Overture) No 3 in D major, BWV 1068. There are four such suites; the third was probably written around 1730 when Bach was living in Leipzig. The suite’s original instrumentation constitutes strings with oboes, trumpets and timpani. Apart from the exquisite melodic treatment of the contrapuntal lines, the Air is also characterised by gradually descending bass octaves.

The title Air on the G String comes from an arrangement by August Wilhelmy of 1871 for solo violin and piano, transposed down into C which thus enables the melody to be played on the lowest string. Unlike some reworkings, this FlutePlay arrangement shows due respect for the intricacy of the inner lines as well as the outer melody and bass parts. Clearly, having a second solo instrument makes this more of a viable proposition, freeing up the keyboard and enabling it to focus on the remaining lines whilst providing some extra harmonic support.

The foreword, from which the foregoing is taken, contains invaluable suggestions on several aspects of performance, including breathing and intonation.

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