A Perfect Piece

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Everyone in the world should have the privilege to be able to hear the extraordinary musical masterpiece “Air on the G String” composed by Johann Sebastian Bach at least once in their lifetime. Bach’s piece “Air on the G String” is the second movement of Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D. which is a suite he composed for his patron Prince Leopold of Anhalt between 1717 and 1723 (“Air”). However, the second movement received the nickname “Air on the G String” in 1871 when German violinist August Wilhelmj made a violin and piano arrangement for it. He changed the key into C major and shifted the melody down an octave which allowed Wilhelmj to be able to play the piece using only one string of his violin, the G string (“Air”).

Orchestral Suite No. 3 consists of five movements which are: overture, air, gavottes I & II, bourrée, and gigue. Each movement has its own specific sound, but they tie together into one specific theme. The overture for this suite draws on a noticeable French stylistic model and consists of an enchanting slow introduction. The second movement “Air,” consisted of strings and continuo alone (May). “The last three movements turn back to France dance models, each with a unique rhythmic profile” (May). Furthermore, “All [of the] movements except for the air are scored for three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, strings, and continuo. The oboes rarely play independently of the violins in this work. The trumpets and drums are used for color and emphasis” (George). The instruments and sounds add to the uniqueness of the piece. Also, “the incessant quaver movement acts to unify the piece as well as to provide momentum, giving great balance of mood throughout the piece” (“Revision”). The movements in the suite, allow for contrasts and variations in mood, even though the overall tone of the piece is peaceful and pleasant.

“Air on the G String” is all instrumental. “The texture is monophonic and there are four beats to a measure” (Mortensen). It consists of an easy tempo that slows down and speeds up subtly:

The melody is long and smooth with a unified mood of love and happiness. Its lyrical melody acts as Baroque version of a wordless, instrumental aria, which unfolds slowly, almost infinitely so. The air’s long opening semibreve, as a rhythmic device, can give the impression of eternity. But it is the walking bass that provides the forward momentum. (“Revision”)This method Bach used while composing is the reason the movement flows without there being huge unanticipated changes throughout it. There are changes in the harmonic tensions but they are very slight and flow effortlessly to the ear to add more suspense to the piece and make sure it is not dull and monotonous (“Revision”). All of these attentions to detail by Bach makes the piece warm, calm, and relaxing. Since this piece was written for a Prince, it is open for interpretation for its inspiration. Many people say this piece would be great to listen to at dinner or just to relax and unwind from a hectic day Also, that this piece could be used during deep thought (Mortensen). Moreover, this movement is often played in a highly Romantic style, with much vibrato (“Revision”). This makes the piece ideal for wedding music or as the base of a romantic setting. It excellently creates the feeling of one longing for the person they love (Mortensen).

Whenever I listen to this piece, I feel as if I am in a Disney Princess movie walking through a forest and watching all the animals play while I stroll by. While I am watching the animals play, their play fighting is being incorporated by the moments of tension in the piece. Also, listening to this piece while writing my essay made me feel for relaxed and helped with the flow of my paper. Therefore, I believe everyone should listen to the piece to experience the same feelings I had while listening to this piece or to be able to gain their own peaceful memory associated with this movement.

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