The 12 keyboard polonaises of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach were immensely popular during the composer’s lifetime, and they are among his best-known pieces today.
W.F. Bach did not treat the polonaise as a light, unpretentious dance form for dilettantes; rather, he approached the genre with the same compositional refinement and sophistication found in his large forms.
Written during the period when the popular galant style dominated, these pieces display aspects of the older contrapuntal art and a level of complexity that rarely appears in light popular dance genres of the time.
This according to “‘…welche dem größten Concerte gleichen’: The polonaises of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach” by Peter Wollny, an essay included in The keyboard in Baroque Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003 169–83; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2003-4580).
Today is W.F. Bach’s 310th birthday! Below, the 12 polonaises played on the fortepiano by Slobodan Jovanović.