It is tempting to speculate that where a piece has been
misattributed to one of the great musical geniuses, it
must have at least some of the qualities that make that
personage great. Not so with the so-called Suite for
Orchestra BWV 1070, which for a long time was listed in
the Bach Werke Verzeichnis, or Schmieder, catalog of
the master's works.
Not that it is at all a bad piece; it is a good, if not
highly original late-Baroque suite for strings and
continuo, though lacking the greatness of either Johann
Sebastian Bach (1865 - 1750) or his eldest son, Wilhelm
Friedemann Bach (1710 - 1784). The fault seems to lie
with one Christian Friedrich Penzel, a student of
Johann Sebastian Bach's. In 1753, he wrote out a copy
of the work and wrote on it that it was by Johann
Sebastian Bach. When musical scholarship on Bach began
in earnest, the Penzel manuscript came to light.
Wilhelm Schmieder, compiling his authoritative
Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der musikalischen
Werke von Johann Sebastian Bach (or BWV) the Bach
anniversary year of 1950, felt he had to list this
piece along with the four correctly attributed Suites
for Orchestra, BWV 1066 - 1069. He listed it as No.
1070, though noting his reservations about its
authenticity. Meanwhile, the editors of the New Bach
Edition, a scholarly edition of Bach's works, saw fit
to include this suite with the note that while it was
certainly not the work of Johann Sebastian, it might be
the work of Wilhelm Friedemann. Others have speculated,
with little foundation that, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
might be the author. It is probably the work not of a
Northern German master like the Bachs, but someone
working in Bavaria, Austria, or the region, judging
from the use of the titles torneo and capriccio for two
of the movements.
The opening movement, Overture. Larghetto, is a solemn
piece in the form of a prelude and fugue. There is
rather too much reliance of sequences (repetitions of
the same short figure on different starting notes) and
the harmonies are relatively plain, both factors
pointing away from any of the four fine composers of
the J.S. Bach family. Still, it is a graceful and
highly listenable piece. The movement called "Torneo"
is in a fast tempo. Its main melody has a dashing,
rapid run as an upbeat figure. The title refers to a
type of operatic spectacle that was part tournament,
popular in Northern Italy, and the music has a
bustling, athletic quality that is appropriate to the
name. The longest movement in the work is marked Aria.
Adagio. It begins with a recitative-like figure, then
adopts a more measured, flowing style built on the same
figurations. Then comes a Minuetto alternativo and Trio
with a rather heavy tread. The finale, marked Capriccio
is a bustling piece written in a learned imitative
Although originally written for 3 Oboes, Bassoon, 3
trumpets, Timpani, Strings & Continuo, I created this
Arrangement of the Overture in G Minor (BWV 107) for
Viola & Piano.