The French Suites, BWV 812–817, are six suites which
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for the clavier
(harpsichord or clavichord) between the years of 1722
and 1725. Although Suites 1–4 are typically dated to
1722, it is possible that the first was written
The suites were later given the name 'French' (first
recorded usage by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg in 1762).
Likewise, the English Suites received a later
appellation. The name was popularised by Bach's
biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel, who wrote in his
1802 biography of Bach, "One usually calls them French
Suites because they are written in the French manner."
This claim, however, is inaccurate: like Bach's other
suites, they follow a largely Italian convention. There
is no surviving definitive manuscript of these suites,
and ornamentation varies both in type and in degree
across manuscripts. The Courantes of the first (in D
minor) and third (in B minor) suites are in the French
style, the Courantes of the other four suites are all
in the Italian style. In any case Bach also employed
dance movements (such as the Polonaise of the Sixth
suite) that are foreign to the French manner. Usually,
the swift second movement after the Allemande is named
either Courante (French style) or Corrente (Italian
style), but in all these suites the second movements
are named Courante, according to the Bach catalog
listing, which supports the suggestion that these
suites are "French". Some of the manuscripts that have
come down to us are titled "Suites Pour Le Clavecin",
which is what probably led to the tradition of calling
them "French" Suites.
Two additional suites, one in A minor (BWV 818), the
other in E-flat Major (BWV 819), are linked to the
familiar six in some manuscripts. The Overture in the
French style, BWV 831, which Bach published as the
second part of Clavier-Übung, is a suite in the French
style but not connected to the French suites. Some
manuscripts have movements not found in other copies,
which are probably spurious.
Although originally written for Harpsichord. I created
this Arrangement of the Gigue from the French Suite No.
1 in D Minor (BWV 812 No. 5) for String Trio (Violin,
Viola & Cello).