Bach For The Beach


Asked what music by J.S. Bach might be suitable for beachside listening, many folks would immediately turn to the Brandenburg Concertos. Written in the frothy Italian style, they will do just fine sandwiched between bouts of beach ball and competitions for who can tunnel fastest to the center of the earth. But for a lazy summer afternoon, especially one spent in the shade as a refreshingly cool breeze wafts over the cocktails set out on the fantasy beachfront patio of your exclusive estate, nothing will work better than Martin Pearlman's Boston Baroque period instrument recording Bach: The Complete Orchestral Suites.

Believed to have been composed between the mid-1720s and the late-1730s, the four Orchestral Suites were written in the more stately French style. I'm especially enamored of Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 (1731). Most classical music lovers know and love its second movement, the Air, in the 19th century arrangement for solo violin that achieved fame as the "Air on the G String." It's even more beautiful in its original form, especially when heard in sequence, after the suite's rollicking six-plus minute "Ouverture."

Most movements of the Orchestral Suites are cast as dance forms: bourrée, gavotte, menuet, gigue, sarabande, etc. The music is as ordered as images of the pre-Revolution French court suggest, save for the final Réjouissance of Suite No. 4, which suggests a bit of a free-for-all. It isn't exactly Annette Funicello or Brian Wilson gone baroque, but it is great music.