PARTITA n0. 3 IN E MAJOR, BWV 1006
Unlike the other two partitas in the collection, the Third Partita is not built using principles of variation. Also whereas, the first two partitas are written in the Germanic and Italian styles, this one recalls a French dance suite.
A second, more developed version of this partita survives in Bach’s handwriting, which gives it particular importance. Originally without an instrument designation, it is now usually assigned to the lute and known as Suite BWV1006a. Bach’s style of calligraphy and the watermarks on the paper, according to the NBA1 editors, suggest its conception to be between 1735 and 1740, about fifteen years after he completed the Sonatas and Partitas. This time-frame coincides with a visit Wilhelm Friedemann Bach made to Leipzig 1739 in the company of lutenists Silvius Leopold Weiß and Johann Kropfgans. An excerpt from a letter pertaining to this visit, by Johann Elias Bach, reads: “... something extra fine in the way of music was going on, my honoured Cousin from Dresden, who was here for over four weeks, having made himself heard several times at our house along with the two famous lutenists Mr. Weise and Mr. Kropffgans.”2 It is tempting to speculate that Bach may have made the arrangement during this special occasion.
Aside from the solo violin and lute versions, Bach also wrote a solo organ arrangement of the prelude, and orchestrated it twice with organobbligato.
In keeping with the joyful affect associated with the key of E major, the pieces are more light-hearted and less contrapuntally complex.
1. The Neue Bach Ausgabe (NBA), to a large extent editorially supersedes the Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe, although the former still remains an important source. It was edited by the Bach-institut Gottingen and the Bach-Archiv Leipzig and published by Barenreiter-Verlag from 1954 to 2007.
2. David and Mendel, 163. (Elias Bach occupied a place in the J.S. Bach household between 1738–42).