• E.M.G.

Bourrée from the Lute Suite BWV 996

Mis à jour : 26 nov. 2018

Listen to the Bourrée: https://youtu.be/g6LoZgykNoM

Read the score: http://hz.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/0/0e/IMSLP07595-BWV0996.pdf


This French Dance uses a typical rhythm made of 2 quarter notes and a half note. It is written in a 2/2 measure. There are 2 lines: a soprano and a bassus continuus which sometimes plays imitations at the end of phrases.


Measures 1 to 4:

The main motif of the soprano consists in a little upward stepwise motion from the tonic to the 3rd degree G. Remark that in measure 1 the bass plays the retrograde of this motif.

Although the soprano follows a stepwise motion, it is built on 4th intervals. We can see it on each 1st and 2nd beats: G and D#, B and E, B and F#.

In measure 1 there are E- and BM. Note the passing E on the 2nd beat. In measure 2 chords are E-, D#°, E- and GM. End of measure 2 and the 1st beat of 3 may be considered either as a short modulation to G major, or as passing tones between 2 tonic chords. Measure 3 is made of GM, A- and B7. Note that the 7th A in the soprano can go upward since this same note goes downward in the bass.

In measure 4 there is a conclusive V – I progression in the tonic key.


Measures 5 to 8:

There are almost the same as the first measures. This time however, it ends by a conclusive V – I progression in the relative key.


Measures 8 to 11:

The dance continues in this G major key with a little harmonic sequence in measures 9 and 10: GM and D7, A- and E7. In this modulation to the A minor key, A- is both a degree II and I.

Measure 12 is a conclusive V – I progression in this key. However, on the 2nd beat of measure 11 in the soprano note the neighbor tone C of the 5th (B) of the E7dominant chord


Measures 12 to 16:

In measure 13, the same motif as at the end of measure 9 is played by the soprano. Another modulation to G major is brought by chords A- and DM in measure 12.

Measure 13 is the same as 2nd beat of 9 and 1st of 10. There is a harmonic sequence with modulations: in measure 12 chords are GM, CM, and E7, in measure 13 there are AM, DM and F#M.

This is how the music goes to the B minor key, with a conclusive V – I progression in measure 15 and 16.


Measures 17 to 20:

Measures 17 to 19 also use a harmonic sequence but this time the soprano rather goes downward. E7, A7, D7 and G7 are dominant chords which resolve on each other, then CM and F#- (and not F#° to avoided the augmented 4th) are from the tonic key (VI and II).

Measure 19 is a pause on the dominant chord.


Measures 21 to 24:

21 and 22 use again the same sequence as in 17: E7 and A-, D7 and G+ (note the nice augmented 5th which can also be understood as a chromatic approach of the next E, 3rd of CM), CM and F#-, BM and E-.

Note the similarity between measures 23 and 11: it is almost the same V – I conclusive progression transposed from the dominant key to the tonic key.


The form of this Bourrée is:

A beginning from the tonic key with a conclusive progression in measure 4 and ending in G major.

A’ beginning in G major, passing through the key of A minor (conclusive progression in measure 12), B minor (conclusive progression in measure 16) and ending in E minor.

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