It feels as though I've always had a particular affinity with the "English" Suites :)
Despite currently fashionable "deconstructionist" rubbishing of, well - just about everything that ever existed or even might have done, and the extreme unlikelihood of Bach's ever having visited these shores, I continue to recognize an extraordinary quality of "englishness" about them. Surely the particular melancholy of No.2's Sarabande? I remember my father likening it in the late 50s to "Exhibition Road [Kensington, London] on a grey autumn afternoon", and I can't think of a better comparison, the way it was back then. The Gavottes of No.3 make me think of English children learning to ride (the second being the little ones, going round and round on a long rein - there are other details too, in the first, which I'll leave to the imagination...:) )
These are warts-and-all performances. Apart from *anything else*, the quilling on the Ruckers copy needs serious attention (even more than before). However, listening to them, they capture some of the 'connections across time' I'm trying to register with the listener's consciousness. (BTW they are also dedicated to Bach-scholar Peter Williams, who evidently takes pride in rubbishing the English Suites themselves.)
Bach, from English Suite No.3: Prelude (6.4 Mb), Gigue (5.3 Mb).
No reference to the English Suites would be complete without mentioning the name of Charles Dieupart (there's an excellent summary of the
background to what little is known about his life here),
His six suites had a profound influence on both Bach and Handel, witness the number itself (which Bach continued to adopt), as well as both men's choosing the key of A major to begin their respective collections 'for the English' (Handel also the key of F minor to end his). I think it must the vividness with which he expresses the promise of hope, at the dawn of the 18th century, for his adopted (or soon-to-be adopted) country (so extraordinarily intuited by Bach, cf above), as well as his consummate ability (which recalls Chambonnières' own - perhaps Dieupart was indeed born after 1672?) to write with the maximum effectiveness in terms of tone-production for the harpsichord. Here's the A major Allemande (played from the 1705 Walsh edition), which seems to start by evoking the trickle-down theory of wealth - "here people, all this can be yours..."