Johann Sebastian Bach: Menuet in G Major BWV 114

I’ve been writing a lot lately about pieces that have watery themes. Bach certainly did not have water on the brain when he penned this minuet, but in the 60s the tune was used in a Motown pop record. A woman with a strong, gospel-trained voice belted out the words, which went something like “How gentle is the rain…”

It’s not hard to imagine how this melody got to Detroit. In 1994, my daughter started violin lessons. Her teacher used the Suzuki books, which have graded pieces. The Menuet in G major is one of the last ones in the first book. It also happens to be one of the first pieces in the key of G, which on the violin requires different fingering than what you’ve been blithely playing for nearly a year.

In the key of A, starting on the third string, you play open string, put the first finger down for B and then play C and D with the second and third fingers–all three being equally spaced. On the G scale, however–which starts with the third finger on the second string–when you get to the A string, you put the first finger down like you’ve always done, but to play B you suddenly put the second finger down right next to the first! All major scales go whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step. The hard thing on the violin is that there are no frets to represent whole and half steps. The piano is luxurious in a way because the placement of the keys and the black keys clearly show which are whole and half.

The minuet was a French country dance that became very popular in the 17th century and which was eventually formalized by composers as an integral part of the suite. Eventually as suites migrated and changed into symphonies, the minuet movement developed into the scherzo. As a simple dance form, it had a three-beat rhythm, like a waltz. It is a good piece for beginners because the strong beat helps you remember it.

Bach had two wives and 20 children! Four of his sons became famous composers in their own right. Their household must have been something. You think: a prototype for the Von Trap family. When I looked online for this piece, I found it buried in what is called the “The Anna Magdalena Notebooks.” He wrote these to teach his second wife, Anna Magdalena, how to play. Poor lady. Imagine having to bear that many children and then sit down to tickle the ivories. I had trouble finding time to have quality time with my two daughters when they were little! How did Anna Magdalena do it?  Recently, I heard that after Anna Magdalena raised those children, they abandoned her and she died penniless.  Not even a postcard at Christmas.

Anna Magdalena’s Biography
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About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

5 Responses to Johann Sebastian Bach: Menuet in G Major BWV 114

  1. kvennarad says:

    It was A Lover’s Concerto by The Toys, and though it was a typical mid-60s R&B record, it wasn’t on Motown. 🙂

    Like

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