Bach Minuet Vol. 3 too long?

Coutier said: Apr 21, 2009
Coutier Rademaker58 posts

For a while now I have worked with the new violin editions and I am really interested to know what other teachers and students feel about some of the changes in them. Personally I am unhappy with Bach’s minuet in vol. 3 and all those repeats it has now. We play it in grouplessons and in concerts and every time my feeling is that it is too long and has actually become boring. I notice the same tired reaction in my students. I am quite sad about that because I have always loved that piece and it is brilliant to bring book 1 and book 3 students together.

My collegue at the music school says we should play the minuet in the new way because that is what is given to us now and we should try to preserve (or rather “re-preserve” as I would call it) our common language. I feel very strongly like going back to the original minuet as we had it before the publication of the revised editions.

I imagine that the decision to put in all those repeats comes from a desire to play things the way Bach wrote them. Also by making a piece much longer it demands greater skills and musicality of the students and as such is a challenge. My question is wether book 3 students are up to that. Please comment!


Jennifer Visick said: Apr 21, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1076 posts

my understanding of the reason behind the length for book 3 pieces (not just the Minuet) is that it is a preparation for the length of the concertos in book 4.

Personally I would teach my students how to do the repeats as written for groups but allow them to eliminate certain repeats for a solo performance. Being flexible about repeats when playing the same song in different performance situations is a challenge for some students but it is a necessary skill for playing in groups, chamber music, orchestras, etc.

BTW, although it doesn’t say so in our Suzuki books, I think the general consensus among musicologists and/or music historians today is that these minuets were written by Christian Petzold.

Last year I was browsing through my local music store and came across a book called “Blue Baroque: Contemporary arrangements for violin and piano of Baroque classics” by Mike Cornick. It has arrangements of both the pieces that make up the Book 3 minuet—fun to play after they’ve mastered the other version, and can shake things up so it’s not ‘boring’ (There are “blue baroque” books for flute and cello as well).

Lindsay said: Apr 25, 2009
 55 posts

I do think the Minuet is too long in Vol 3. I had an older student who learned the piece before the revisions go back and play it. Her response—”YUCK!” I think a lot of the feeling of the piece is lost in the excessive repetitions.

Lindsay—Violin teacher, homeschooling mama of four, small-time publisher

Emily said: Sep 22, 2013
 59 posts

We have had similar experiences with the changes in this piece. It certainly is a difficult decision, however. On the one hand it is important to preserve the pedagogical language of the method, but it is also important to preserve the intrinsic motivation and see that the student is enjoying his or her engagement with the music.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Oct 14, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
100 posts

This version of the Book 3 minuet is straight from the Mary Magdalena Notebook of Bach, which is written for keyboard. Hadn’t heard that someone else may have written it. In any case, I favor the repeats, as it gives a chance to play differently on the repeats, just as it would have been played in Baroque times. The Revised edition includes the ornaments which are also written out in the exact same way in the Magdalena notebook; these would be played on the second time through only, and may be interpreted as a suggestion, an inspiration, for other similar ornamentation.

How can one be bored when Bach gives us so many opportunities to interpret and play with phrases in new ways, such as changed articulation, expression that is fresh and different from the first time through? In that way, a student learns shaping, meaning, the expressive possibilities of music through their instrument. They are not just playing notes!

True, this makes it longer than in the previous edition, but if the student has a clear idea of the musical line in his/her (=they from now on) head, and knows where they are and where they’re going in the music, they are only learning Minuet II after all because the first is already familiar, albeit with a slightly different repeat pattern plus dynamics and expression, then it is not a difficult task. It gets them accustomed to more sophisticated, sequential thinking which will be needed more and more in the coming pieces.

Wendy Caron Zohar

If we work hard, music may save the world.—S. Suzuki

JoAnn said: Oct 14, 2013
 20 posts

I am in total agreement with Wendy.
Minuet 3, as presented in Bk I, repeats both sections of the MInuet. What was weird was NOT repeating the second section in Bk 3.

Not repeating both sections of the added minor Minuet would be unbalanced and not “correct” as regards the standard form of this kind of piece.

I love Wendy’s reminder that this gives us a chance to breathe new life into the repeated sections and a chance to introduce (or reinforce) to the children Baroque performance practices.

Minuet 3 should already be a solid part of the kid’s repertoire, hence they are only learning the minor Minuet- which means they are building their stamina (which will definitely be tested in Bk IV) without the addition of a LOT of more difficult material also being added. Granted, this g minor minuet can be tough going, with the first heavy dose of g minor finger pattern; however, it no where resembles what these kids are going to have thrown at them with the third Seitz and the Vivaldi concerto.
Better to start expanding that stamina with Minuet 3 then letting it all happen on those much more complicated bk 4 pieces.

Hadley Johnson Gibbons said: Nov 4, 2013
Hadley Johnson GibbonsViolin, Viola
Seattle, WA
37 posts

Historically, all of those repeats were meant to make a short piece long enough to last for an entire dance. As those of us who have read Jane Austen know, dances with lots of repeats were valuable for flirting, possibly even for finding a husband.

When the dance suite morphed into the classical/romantic sonata (that is, something to be played for a more sedentary audience), most of the repeats were eliminated because they weren’t interesting enough to hold the listeners’ attention. When played for a dance, however, repeats were still necessary. Obviously, eventually dance suites ceased to be an important part of nightly entertainment. When we play movements of dance suites today, we are usually doing it for an audience that is sitting and not dancing.

I make my students to the repeats, but only because they are expected to do so for Institutes. One way to make the repeats more interesting is to start without ornaments and then to add them the second time around. I haven’t yet done this with my studio, but I think that it would be fascinating to actually learn how to dance a minuet!

Christian Pezold wrote both minuets that are compiled into the “Minuet” in Book 3. (They were included in J.S. Bach’s “Anna Magdalena Notebook,” a compilation of his favorite pedagogical tunes but not all original compositions.) Despite their non-Bach origins, both minuets have BWV numbers: 114 and 115. One good place to go when trying to find which pieces were written by Bach and which were spurious is a library with a New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

All of this information is in my book “From Suzuki to Mozart: a history of the repertoire in Suzuki Violin Books 1-10.” (Available through This month I am doing revisions for the next edition, so if you have the book and have noticed any errors or omissions, please send me your critiques! I would be very grateful!

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