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Bach’s Works with French Overture

OT: cantatas and other compositions with a "French Overture"

Bruce Simonson wrote (January 25, 2012):
(Apologies for the OT).

I find myself wondering about the "French Overture" style (usually attributed to Lully, as I understand it). The main characteristic of a work in this style seems to be a three-part movement, with tempi as "slow-fast-slow", where the slow sections are typically "over-dotted" and the fast section is typcially dance-like or a fugue.

I appeal to the experience and knowledge of the list, with several questions:

1) Which of Bach's cantatas (and his works in general) have what might be called a "French overture"?

2) What are some of the most famous examples of "French overtures" by other composers?

3) It is my impression that these "French overtures" are typically in a major key, which seems fitting for the "entrance of the king into his court" allegorical function often ascribed to this type of movement. For the examples of "French overtures" that you know of, are they in a major key (i.e., at least start (and end) in a major key)?

Thanks much for your insights, and specific examples!

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 25, 2012):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< I appeal to the experience and knowledge of the list, with several questions:
1) Which of Bach's cantatas (and his works in general) have what might be called a "French overture"?
2) What are some of the most famous examples of "French overtures" by other composers? >
Handel (Water-Musick, Royal Fireworks)
Telemann (Water-Musick, Don Quixote, Ancient and Modern Nations, D major Trumpet ouverture from his "Table Music" and another 125 suites)
Fasch: (about 80 survive, with some of his best ones in G minor I think)
Graupner: (85 survive for all manner of instruments including flute d'amore, oboe d'amore, brass and timpani, some for only 3 chalumeaux, etc)
Endler: (about 7 survive, and quite wonderful pieces)
Francesco Maria Veracini. (several were published during his lifetime)

< 3) It is my impression that these "French overtures" are typically in a major key, which seems fitting for the "entrance of the king into his court" allegorical function often ascribed to this type of movement. For the examples of "French overtures" that you know of, are they in a major key (i.e., at least start (and end) in a major key)? >
And no, Ouvertures were written in all manner of keys, there's one by Telemann in F sharp minor that's some very intense music making. The form of Ouverture was greatly expanded in Germany to include things that the French model never had. The German composers elevated the form to a superb artistic expression of the highest order.

I hope this helps

Julian Mincham wrote (January 25, 2012):
[To Bruce Simonson] Bruce look at the essay on BWV 20 chapter 2 of volume 2 on the website www.jsbachcantatas.com which lists the cantata French Overtures. And they are not always in major keys--see the second Orchestral Suite in B minor for example.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 25, 2012):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< 1) Which of Bach's cantatas (and his works in general) have what might be called a "French overture"? >
Bach uses the kingly aspect symbolically in BWV 61, "Nun Komm der Heiden" where the dotted rhythm is used to anounce the approach of Christ.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GM2hpS64Sc

The Overtures have glittering French overtures:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3Y4u3Dmzhs

< 3) It is my impression that these "French overtures" are typically in a major key, which seems fitting for the "entrance of the king into his court" allegorical function often ascribed to this type of movement. >
The overture form became an bipartitite overture and fugue very early in opera and oratorio and was often cast in a minor key:

Purcell: Dido & Aeneas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnPo7mtkh7

Handel: Messiah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v8cDL17bS4

Anthony Kozar wrote (January 25, 2012):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< (Apologies for the OT). >
This doesn't seem off-topic to me at all. I too was intrigued by this form recently. :)

< I find myself wondering about the "French Overture" style (usually attributed to Lully, as I understand it). The main characteristic of a work in this style seems to be a three-part movement, with tempi as "slow-fast-slow", where the slow sections are typically "over-dotted" and the fast section is typcially dance-like or a fugue. >
While many of Bach's Ouvertures have an ABA form (he applied da capo form to many types of works), my understanding is that the original Lullian ouverture was only a two-part form: slow-fast.

< 1) Which of Bach's cantatas (and his works in general) have what might be called a "French overture"? >
I don't have the Boyd encyclopedia handy but it almost certainly lists the many unexpected places you can find French overtures in Bach's pieces.

Other than the obvious (orchestral suites & Overture in the French Style), I recall that there are ouvertures in these pieces:

Suites BWV 820 and 822 (which are overture suites like BWV 831)
Partita no. 4, BWV 828
Variation 16 of the Goldberg Variations (begins the 2nd half)
Cello Suite no. 5 / Lute Suite BWV 995
Prelude and Fugue in E-flat, "St. Anne", BWV 552 (breathtaking!!)
Cantata 110 (same as one of the orchestral suites)

I marked the following Cantatas in iTunes as having Ouvertures (but I'm not sure that they are):

Cantata BWV 97, "In Allen Meinen Taten"
Cantata BWV 20, "O Ewigkeit, Du Donnerwort" (already mentioned)

(And I just marked BWV 61 -- thanks Doug :)

There are probably others.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 25, 2012):
Just refreshed my memory. Of the half dozen French overtures from the cantatas, only one, BWV 61 is in a minor key. Of the four orchestral suites again there is only one. It seems that Bach mostly chose major modes though not exclusively so.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 26, 2012):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< I appeal to the experience and knowledge of the list, with several questions:
1) Which of Bach's cantatas (and his works in general) have what might be called a "French overture"? >
A personal favorite, easily overlooked, is the Goldberg Variation No. 16, overture to the second act. As a late work, we could also consider this among(?) Bachs most mature thoughts on the subject. Perhaps not among, but simply the final one?

I am totally at a loss as to protocol for posts that overlap BCML and BRML. When in doubt, I send to both. I sincerely apologize to folks who subscrbie only to BRML in order to minimize incoming mail, or for other reasons, including anyone who specifically wanted to avoid me.

Linda Gingrich wrote (January 27, 2012):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< 1) Which of Bach's cantatas (and his works in general) have what might be called a "French overture"? >
The first movement of the second cycle's very first chorale cantata, BWV 20, O Ewigkeit du Donnerwort ("thunder-word," what a great description of Ewigkeit!!) is a French overture. I strongly suspect--actually I'm quite sure--that it was no accident that Bach inaugurated his chorale cantata cycle with an overture, a kind of curtain-opener. It's as if he is saying, across the ages, "Ta-dah!"

William Hoffman wrote (January 27, 2012):
OT: French Overtures


[To Linda Gingrich] Among the French Overtures introducing cantatas, others of significance besides Cantata BWV 20 opening the chorale cantata cycle, are C119, the first for the Leipzig Town Council; Cantata BWV 194, closing the first cycle on Trinity Sunday, a week before Cantata BWV 20 (from a Köthen orchestral dance suite serenade); and Cantata BWV 110 for Christmas Day, an adaptation of the opening of the Orchestral Suite No. 4, BWV 1069/1, with the fugue set to a Lehms text. It is also possible that Bach did the same with the opening of the Orchestral Suite No. 3, BWV 1068, to the text "Ehre sei Gott is der Hohe," opening Cantata BWV 197a for Christmas 1728, a Picander cycle parody, a torso reconstructed by Gustav Adolf Theil and published by Forberg Verlag in Bonn in 1981 and long out of print.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 29, 2012):
French Overtures [was: OT: cantatas and other compositions with a]


Bruce Simonson wrote:
<< 1) Which of Bach's cantatas (and his works in general) have what might be called a "French overture"? >>
Linda Gingrich wrote:
< The first movement of the second cycle's very first chorale cantata, BWV 20, O Ewigkeit du Donnerwort ("thunder-word," what a great description of Ewigkeit!!) is a French overture. >
EM:
Emphatically so, IMO, on both points.

LG:
< I strongly suspect--actually I'm quite sure--that it was no accident that Bach inaugurated his chorale cantata cycle with an overture, a kind of curtain-opener. It's as if he is saying, across the ages, "Ta-dah!" >
EM:
OK, but it is a curtain opener to the second act! Much like Variation 16 of the Goldbergs?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 29, 2012):
OT: French Overtures

William Hoffman wrote:
< Among the French Overtures introducing cantatas, others of significance besides Cantata BWV 20 opening the chorale cantata cycle, [...]
Cantata
BWV 194, closing the first cycle on Trinity Sunday, a week before Cantata BWV 20 (from a Köthen orchestral dance suite serenade) >
Neat details, thanks for pointing them out.

 

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Last update: ýMarch 12, 2012 ý08:16:49