This performance edition presents the French Suites in the “Urtext” from the New Bach Edition. It thus contains everything in the highly complex source tradition that modern scholars consider to bear Bach's authorial sanction. These include the earliest complete version (A) in the hand of Bach's son-in-law J. C. Altnickol, and the later, more richly ornamented layer (B) handed down in diverse sources. Although the title “French Suites” was already in circulation in the eighteenth century, neither this title nor a complete manuscript has come down to us in Bach's hand.
For this reason we have chose to augment versions A and B with the alternative versions of Suites BWV 814a and 815b which, though less secure, contain several delightful movements otherwise lacking in the other versions (see musical examples). Several sources hand down the Suites in A minor and E-flat major in connection with the French Suites. We therefore found it logical to include both these suites in our volume, where they can be found in their earlier forms, BWV 818 and 819, and in their more recent forms, BWV 818a and 819a.
This comprehensive performance edition allows players for the first time to make their own selection from the wealth of surviving material.
The editor of this unique and path-breaking volume is Alfred Dürr, an internationally renowned Bach scholar who has produced many other volumes for the New Bach Edition and published several well-known standard works on Bach.