Air not on the G string


We’ve just published an organ arrangement of Bach’s Air, the second movement of his 3rd Orchestral Suite, BWV 1068. It’s a very famous piece, and you’ll almost certainly recognise it if you hear it, even if you’re not fully up to speed with the complexities of Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis numbering.

August Wilhelmj, a German violinist and prodigy who used to teach violin at my alma mater The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and who died in London in 1908, arranged the same piece for violin and piano, and the popular name for the piece was coined by him as a title for his arrangement. It’s a title you have almost certainly heard of even if the BWV numbers have temporarily slipped your mind – Air on the G String.

In his arrangement, he transposed the music into C and brought the tune down an octave, so starting on the E above middle C. This allowed him to play the whole thing on the violin’s G string (although, despite his title, playing it all on the G string wasn’t supposed to be taken as an instruction to the player).

Wilhelmj’s isn’t the only other arrangement of this piece. There are plenty of them about, because it’s such a popular piece. Some are arrangements for different ensembles, to allow more groups to play it. Some are simplified versions, aimed at beginner pianists or organists.

This arrangement is of the former kind, rather than the latter (although even so it’s not particularly difficult). It’s intended to be a pretty faithful transcription of Bach’s original, with liberties taken only to bring lines within the reach of the organist, or to avoid tricky moments when a note is simultaneously held down and also restruck.

I hope you enjoy it! Add it to your wedding collection (order form here).

About Neil Sands

Director of the Chichester Music Press. Astronomer.
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