suite (swēt) [key], in music, instrumental form derived from dance and consisting of a series of movements usually in the same key but contrasting in rhythm and mood. The principle of the suite can be seen in the playing together of two dances in contrasting meters, e.g., pavan and galliard or passamezzo-saltarello in the 16th cent. The early 17th-century English composers William Byrd, John Bull, and Orlando Gibbons published small groups of dances, with several movements written for the virginals. In France and Italy there developed sophisticated techniques for linking dances together, which were adopted by German musicians in the early 17th cent. As the connection with actual dancing disappeared, the baroque suite evolved. In France stylized dances were collected into ordres such as those of François Couperin, while in Italy nondance movements were introduced into the developing sonata da camera (see sonata). In Germany the suites of Johann Jakob Froberger established the basic group of movements as allemande, courante, and sarabande, with a gigue often played between the last two. The gigue was later the final movement of four. The late baroque suite, e.g., the partitas of J. S. Bach, frequently has an introductory movement and one or more of several simpler dances—minuet, bourrée, gavotte, passepied, and others—added to the basic group. Suites for orchestra, including Bach's, were sometimes called ouvertures. In the classical period the serenade was a kind of suite. Mozart wrote several of this sort for orchestra. The 19th-century suite became a collection of pieces drawn from incidental music for plays or from the score of a ballet, e.g., Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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