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The little snippet of music you just heard, our “theme music,” is from the first movement, the Prelude, of the Partita Number 3 in E Major for solo violin by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach wrote a set of six large works for solo violin – three sonatas and three partitas.

The sonatas are constructed of constrasting movements with such names as Allegro, Andante, and Adagio. But “partita” is a synonym for “suite,” and the Baroque suite, which is to say the suite in the time of Bach, consists of a set of dance movements. After the Prelude, for example, the movements of Bach’s Partita No. 3 are a Loure, a Gavotte, two Minuets, a Bourrée, and a Gigue—all names of dances. It’s important to remember, though, that these are stylized dances: each movement borrows its rhythmic patterns and overall character from a different dance, but the music is meant for listening, not dancing.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.