Some of Bach's keyboard compositions during his time in
Cöthen were not written for the court, including the
so-called French Suites, the first five of which appear
in the Little Notebook for Anna Magdalena. Written in
1722, the Suites open the book of instructional
material. Here, and in other manuscripts, the works are
entitled, "Suites pour le Clavessin" (Suites for the
Cembalo, or Harpsichord). The term "French" was applied
to them much later, perhaps to distinguish them from
the "English" Suites, which are more musically
extended, stylized dance suites.
Each of the six French Suites contains the four dance
movements that Bach made standard for the genre --
Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue. To these,
Bach added two to four movements between the Sarabande
and Gigue. Because the different movements are
associated with different European countries, the
Suites have an "international" character. All movements
of a particular suite are in the same key, although
minor-key movements often end in the major.
Although originally written for Keyboard, I created a
Viola part to accompany an Acoustic Piano adaptation of
Bach's French Suite No. 3 in B minor (BWV 814 Mvt. 5)
providing a somewhat 'Pavane' style.