Suite (music)

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In music, a suite (from French suite "sequence") is a given sequence of instrumental or orchestral pieces that are played one after the other without long pauses. In the second half of the 17th century, the name Partita (French also partie ) established itself , in the 18th century suites were often introduced by overtures .

Suite set form

The model form of the individual movement of a baroque suite is the suite movement form . Their typical characteristics show z. B. Bach's minuets . A suite set is in two parts; both parts end with a repeat sign . The harmonic course is fundamental for the form: the first part of a movement in major usually leads to the dominant , the second part from the dominant back to the tonic . The way back is usually extended by the cadence to a neighboring key - for example to the tonic parallel . If the suite movement is in minor, the first part of the movement leads either into the tonic parallel or into the major quint key in minor.

Some dances appear in a superordinate symmetrical three-part structure, whereby the middle part is often in the parallel key or contains a variation or is characterized by a reduced instrumentation. The sentence names are for example:

Renaissance and early baroque

An early suite-like combination is the sequence of the dances "Pavana - Saltarello - Piva" in the fourth book by Joan Ambrosio Dalza's Intabolatura de Lauto (printed 1508 by Petrucci ). Etienne du Tertre first used the term “suite” in 1557 for his suyttes de bransles (suites des Branles), which, as was common at the time, consisted of pairs of dances.

Further archetypes of the suite:

The original form of the pre- and post-dance (Pavana, followed by Galliarda) has been developed into a suite by lutenists in particular. Dance pieces composed anonymously (in tabs) were often arranged according to key and put together to form parts or suites. The Basse danse “La brosse” published by Pierre Attaignant (Paris 1529 and 1530) is probably the oldest polyphonic suite or orchestral suite.


In baroque music , the individual pieces in a suite are usually real or stylized dances and are usually in the same key . In addition to the common key, the connection is sometimes also established through the substance community between the individual movements.

A first recognizable suite form is Paul Peuerl's Newe Padouan, Intrada , Dantz, and Galliarda in 1610 , in which the four dances mentioned in the title appear in ten suites. The Banchetto musicale by Johann Hermann Schein (1617) contains twenty sequences of four different pieces of music each. At the beginning of the 17th century (in P. Peuerl, M. Praetorius, M. Frank, H. Schein, S. Scheidt and J. Staden) the "German Variation Suite" can be found, with the following sentences:

  • Paduana - Intrada - Dantz - Galliarda
  • Pavana - Galliarde - Allemande - Courante

The "classic" suite was created between 1640 and 1670 by Chambonnières , Froberger , and Louis Couperin , under the influence of French lutenists, including Denis Gaultier . It was used in its pure form mainly in German harpsichord and lute music and consisted of the following sequence:

Allemande - Courante - Sarabande - Gigue ,

the jig showing up later than the others. The suite is often preceded by a prelude or - as in suites for baroque guitar by Francesco Corbetta , Robert de Visée , François Campion , Ludovico Roncalli and Santiago de Murcia a prelude or preludio .

French clavecinists the 17th and early 18th century (like Chambonnières, d'Anglebert used u. A.) Typically three or two courantes, and loosened the sequence under the influence of Jean-Baptiste Lully 's ballets and Divertissements by more dances. So it became common to insert movements like minuet , gavotte , chaconne , passacaille , canarie , bourrée , passepied , rondeau etc. (which were also referred to as " gallanteries "). In France, the suite often ended with a gavotte and / or a minuet. In German solo suites, and especially in Bach and Handel , the gigue is usually the last movement.

François Couperin called his harpsichord suites “ Ordre ”, and from around 1710 he brought numerous character pieces into fashion in France .

As early as the court of Louis XIV at the end of the 17th century, it became fashionable to compile suites of orchestral pieces from operas by Lully and other French composers such as André Campra or André Cardinal Destouche's . The entire suite often became an overture (originally also from operas) as Prefixed to the opening sentence. The choice and order of the dances or character pieces was more or less random, colorful and left to the imagination.

In this form, the “Overture Suite” or simply the Overture became particularly popular with German composers. These began to compose such works no longer (as in France) from operas, but to compose them as independent instrumental works (e.g. the so-called "Lullists" Kusser , Georg Muffat , Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer , Johann Joseph Fux and others).

Georg Philipp Telemann is said to have written around 1000 orchestral suites, 200 of which have survived. Four orchestral suites are by Johann Sebastian Bach , as well as the French suites (without overture), English suites and partitas for harpsichord and several suites for cello , violin , lute and flute . Georg Friedrich Handel used the form for his water music and fireworks music and wrote numerous suites for harpsichord, 22 of which have survived. Important and numerous overture suites were also written by Johann Friedrich Fasch and Christoph Graupner .


At the end of the Baroque era around 1750, the suite went out of fashion, and was replaced by divertimento , serenade , notturno and cassation as instrumental music with an entertaining, cheerful to dance-like character.


In the 19th century the term suite was used for a decoupling of instrumental movements from an opera ( Carmen Suite ), incidental music ( Peer Gynt Suite , L'Arlésienne ) or a ballet ( Nutcracker Suite ), which - more or less colorful Episode - either by the composer himself or by an arranger.

Composers such as Camille Saint-Saëns ( Carnival of the Animals ), Jean Sibelius ( Karelia Suite ) or Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky used the term for a sequence of smaller pieces that were linked by a common programmatic theme.

Orchestral suites like in the baroque era, such as the historicist Holberg Suite or the seven suites by Franz Lachner , are exceptional.

20th and 21st centuries

During the operetta era , the individual pieces were less and less completely taken over and connected with transitions, so that the potpourri emerged - a form that is still alive in today's medley .

In salon music through to radio music of the 20th century, the suite is omnipresent as an excerpt from musical stage works or as a series of dances or character pieces. The Suite for Variety Orchestra by Dmitri Shostakovich and Mont Juic by Lennox Berkeley and Benjamin Britten also fit into this tradition .

Suites are also very popular for film scores, where they also represent a "best-of" soundtrack cut together (the individual pieces are often put together using so-called crossfades , so that only fragments of some pieces appear). The suite of a soundtrack is very often found in the last position of the CD score, as the so-called 'end credits suite'. Film music suites are also a popular repertoire for orchestral concerts - although not only original orchestrations, but also numerous material for amateur orchestras with simplified / stripped-down instrumentation or orchestration are available (for example, these arrangements often lack problematic or expensive instruments such as contrabassoon, and so on heavy drives or similar are often simplified by the arranger).


There are also examples of suites in jazz :

  • Duke Ellington : Shakespearean Suite , 1957; Toot Suite , 1958; The Ellington Suites (including Queens Suite ), 1959.
  • Oscar Peterson : Canadiana Suite , 1964.
  • Keith Jarrett : The Survivors Suite , 1976/1977.

Oriental music

Suite-like forms of presentation developed outside of Europe, such as the Radif in the Iranian cultural area.

Individual evidence

  1. Frances Mattingly, Reginald Smith Brindle: Foreword to Antonio Casteliono : Intabolatura de leuto de diversi autori. (1536). Trascrizione in notazione moderna di Reginald Smith Brindle. Edizioni Suvini Zerboni, Milan (1974) 1978, p. XII.
  2. a b c Konrad Ragossnig : Manual of the guitar and lute. Schott, Mainz 1978, ISBN 3-7957-2329-9 , p. 116.
  3. ^ Adalbert Quadt (ed.): Lute music from the Renaissance. According to tablature ed. by Adalbert Quadt. Volume 1 ff. Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1967 ff .; 4th edition, ibid. 1968, Volume 2, Preface (1967).
  4. Adalbert Quadt (ed.): Guitar music from the 16th to 18th centuries Century. According to tablature ed. by Adalbert Quadt. Volume 1-4. Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1970 ff., Volume 2, 3rd edition, ibid. 1972, Foreword (1971), and (Examples of anonymous suites and parts) Volume 3, pp. 15-21, 27-29 and 33-35 as well as ( Suite by François Campion) pp. 40–43 and (four suites by Robert de Visée) pp. 46–60.
  5. ^ Friedrich Blume : Studies on the prehistory of the orchestral suite in the 15th and 16th centuries. Leipzig 1925, p. 67 ff., 96 f. and 122 ff.
  6. Hans Dagobert Bruger (Ed.): Pierre Attaignant. Two and three-part solo pieces for the lute. 1926, p. 11 f. (Author possibly "PB") and 33.
  7. See for example Adalbert Quadt (ed.): Guitar music of the 16th – 18th centuries. Century. 4 volumes. Edited from tablature. Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1970–1984, Volume 1, pp. 26–54, Volume 3, pp. 40–60, and Volume 4, pp. 1–14 and 26–47.
  8. In Chambonnières, d'Anglebert, Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre , Lebègue , Marchand and others. a.