Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Baroque


I am learning Minuet in G Major (S. Anh. 114). In have seen different kinds of sheet music/partitura for this piece. The version I am looking at right now includes lower mordents and a grace note (acciaccatura). It does not include a staccato sign (that is played in the second bar). Is it really a staccato or is it something that sounds kind of simmilar?
It seems that pieces by Baroque composers didn't write down all the ornamnets. Ornaments come from later editions. The didn't have a piiano in those days so I guess writing things like mezzopiano was way out of thinking. And the tuning of the keyboard instrument must have been a bit different. What do you as an experts say about this?

We have a lot of pieces attributed to Bach (this menuet is by Petzold, I think) but I have never seen anything with figured bass that is attributed to Bach. Did he not write anything for figured bass as well? I have heard a lot of its importance. What does the expert say?  

Do you know what "S. Anh." stands for?

ANSWER: Hello Hank,

To answer your last question first: S = Schmieder.  Wolfgang Schmieder (1901-90) was the German musicologist and Bach expert who definitively catalogued Bach's oeuvre in 1950.  Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV = Bach Works Catalogue) numbers are universally accepted and apparently are also sometimes known as Schmieder numbers, so that, for example, the Italian Concerto is BWV971 or S971.  Anh = Anhang (appendix) - this little minuet was listed in the appendix rather than main catalogue because Schmieder wasn't entirely certain that Bach wrote it.  We now know, thanks to Hans-Joachim Schulze, that he didn't - Christian Petzold did.

You're right, this Minuet was most likely played on a harpsichord or spinet, although as "Clavier" means "keyboard instrument" it could equally well be played on organ or clavichord.  The first thing to remember with Baroque music is that the relationship between composer and performer was that of collaboration, so that the composer took it for granted that the performer would use his skill and taste in ornamentation to embellish the written composition.  For that reason, ornaments were seldom written down because they were taken for granted.

"It is not likely that anybody could question the necessity of ornaments. They are found everywhere in music, and are not only useful, but indispensable. They connect the notes; they give them life. They emphasise them, and besides giving accent and meaning they render them grateful; they illustrate the sentiments, be they sad or merry, and take an important part in the general effect. They give to the player an opportunity to show off his technical skill and powers of expression. A mediocre composition can be made attractive by their aid, and the best melody without them may seem obscure and meaningless."  (CPE Bach, "Essay on the True Art of Playing the Keyboard 1753)

The basis of piano playing is legato; the basis of harpsichord playing is more detached and there's more emphasis on careful articulation, particularly as a single-manual instrument isn't capable of dynamic variation.  If you're playing Baroque music on a modern piano you can, and should, put dynamics in but pay attention to phrasing as well.  Most editions will make suggestions but you should let the music and your ear guide you.

As for figured bass, of course Bach used it!  He was a master of it, but you won't find figured bass in keyboard solos.  Have a look at his trio sonatas (here's one  It's for two transverse flutes and basso continuo, so you'd need a cello or bassoon playing the bass part as written plus the continuo harpsichordist playing the bass part and improvising the full accompaniment.  Keyboard players learned to do this at sight - I did too, being a harpsichordist as well as a pianist, and as I was the only harpsichordist at the Academy who could realise a figured bass at sight fluently I used to get all the orchestral jobs going.

Hope this helps.      

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I was told that this piece should be played using articulate legato touch when played on an organ. Am I supposed to play like that on a piano? I personaly don't mind the sound of the modern tuned piano.
Does this piece sound better played using the tuning in Bach's days or is modern tuning equally good?
Is it important to be reminded of the fact that minuet is a dance so that you don't take the music out of its context?

Hello again Hank, and thanks for being patient.

I'm not an organist so only know a little about its touch, but the big difference between an organ and stringed keyboard instruments is that the organ has no decay.  On a piano or harpsichord, once you strike a note and hold it, the note will get softer.  On an organ, if you strike a note, it will remain at exactly the same volume for as long as you depress the key.  So for an organist, the release of a note is as important as its attack and organ fingering uses far more finger substitutions to obtain a true legato.  None of which is particularly relevant if you're playing a piano.  Baroque music needs textural clarity so pay attention to phrasing and dynamics - imagine how a violin and cello would play it, or sing each part through.

I don't know much about the history of the various tuning systems and I think you're attaching too much importance to them.  The differences between equal temperament and well temperament are infinitesimal.  Standard pitch has risen since Baroque times so if I play this piece on a harpsichord followed by a piano, the piano will sound a semitone higher, but again, I don't think that's particularly significant.

The minuet was a courtly dance that was graceful and gracious.  That gives you an indication of its speed.       

Hope this helps.  

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


57 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 42 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 45 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 20 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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