When the fabulous players of the Australian String Quartet asked me to write a piece for the
quartet, I had the privilege to listen to their playing in a concert soon after this request. I was
more than impressed by their concert in November 2006 and it was then, on the evening of the
concert that I realized that for this piece I was interested in an unromantic, dry, crisp and light
sound. Somehow the thought of going to Anna Magdalena Bach's Notebook seemed appealing
to me. I had previously worked with two-part inventions of J. S. Bach and the never-ending
pool of inspiration was in this Notebook no less apparent. Few things played a role here: Anna
Magdalena, singer, wife, mother was a superwoman in the Bach household, taking care of J. S.
Bach and many children, looking after students, guest musicians passing through and at the
same time keeping up the high role that the music played in their lives. Bach gave her
Clavierbuechlein in 1725 which he started with two partitas, the rest was gathered over years.
So, in fact it is not always J. S. Bach himself who wrote all the pieces. Sometimes they were
written by his sons or by students or friends.
I decided to choose the ones that I liked the most. And also the ones which would work in
contrast with each other. The way I worked with the material was to give the original piece a
chance to sound recognizable, at the same time giving it an impetus to change direction.
Nr. 1 “Polonaise in G minor.” This is based on a piece possibly written by C. P. E. Bach. I was
attracted by its minimalist and repetitive nature.
Nr2 “Musette.” “Musette” from the Notebook is possibly one of the most popular pieces to
learn when one is a beginning pianist. I liked its spiky rhythm and insistency.
Nr3 “Aria.” This is based on the excruciatingly beautiful piece "Bist Du bei Mir", and therefore
for me the hardest to find a way to write a tribute rather than imitate it. I chose a chorale-like
close chords and occasional snippets or fragments of the original to intersperse. It ends on an A
dominant 7 which leads into the next movement which is in D Minor.
Nr 4 “Menuet 1” based on a popular Menuet from the Book. It starts with pizzicato and it takes
a little while till the first violin enters with the main melody.
Nr 5 “Polonaise 2.” This one starts out as a canon, starting with cello, then echoed by viola. Of
all the movements this is the most dramatic.
Nr 6 “Menuet 2.” In this final piece the material runs parallel in different instruments in
opposing tempi for a while.