Today’s piece is one of my favorite grade 1-level Baroque pieces to teach. It’s not crazy-complicated to read, but there are a lot of subtleties that make it much more challenging than it seems. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂
Bourree in E minor: Sheet music
Bourree in E minor: Backstory
A Bourree originated as a French dance style. It has a somewhat simple rhythm and begins with an upbeat – 1 beat before the start of the measure. Johann Mattheson wrote of the bourrée, “its distinguishing feature resides in contentment and a pleasant demeanor, at the same time it is somewhat carefree and relaxed”.
Bach and Handel are two baroque composers who wrote some notable bourrees, and it’s mainly a style you’ll find in Baroque-era music.
This composition is found in Leopold Mozart’s collection “Notebook for Wolfgang” – it was a collection of keyboard music for his son, Wolfgang, who is the famous Mozart we all know and love.
Characteristic Baroque Style
A characteristic of baroque music is the very specific detached style – you don’t want to play the music like it’s one big slur. Really watch that you do a real break/lift where you see a staccato or break in the slur, because this is what drives the rhythm.
In the same vein, it’s also important to keep the left hand from being too heavy and thunky – give some real lifts there, as well. Listen to the difference between everything played as a full slur, and with the proper breaks. It makes a difference!
- Key signature: The key signature has one sharp, which is giving us lots of information. Either it’s in G or E minor. Look at beginning notes – they outline an E minor chord, so we can determine this piece is in the key of E minor.
- Finger numbers: Though the rhythm of this piece is easy, mainly just 8th and quarter notes, there are a lot of wide leaps and finger changes, so heed these finger numbers wisely, my friend. They are there to guide you.
Since we just talked about binary form in the previous video, let’s take a look at the form of this bourree. We can tell this is in binary for a couple reasons – the little repeats on the second line, sectioning off the A and the B, and the fact that section B is similar to A – it’s not wildly different, anyway, and it changes key for a brief moment in the 3rd line.
Driving the beat
An important element of a bouree is to have a strong, driving beat. This isn’t something that’s notated – it’s more something you feel. You want to place a bit of an accent, or emphasis, on the first and third beat of each bar.
I hope you enjoy playing this Bourree in E minor – it’s a cool little Baroque piece, and far more difficult than it might seem at a first glance.