Suite (music)

   A suite, or partita, is the earliest type of musical composition containing a series of discrete sections, or movements. The suite was developed in the 16th century as a series of dance tunes, usually composed in one key.
   These tunes were so arranged as to present strong contrasts between slow and fast tempos and dignified and gay moods. The four basic movements of the classical suite are: the allemande (Fr., "German"), a quiet dance in moderate tempo, composed in common time; the courante (French, "running"), a lively dance, often complex in its rhythms; the sarabande, a stately dance of Spanish origin in triple time, rich in harmonic embellishment; and the jig or gigue, a rapid and lively dance, also in triple time. A prelude, not derived from any dance form, was later customarily included at the beginning of the suite, and one or more additional dance forms, such as the minuet, gavotte, bourrĂ©e, chaconne, and passacaglia, were also sometimes inserted, generally between the saraband and gigue. The classical suite reached its perfection in the examples by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach. In the 18th and 19th centuries the classical suite gradually merged with and was superseded by the sonata. Modern compositions called suites are only loosely related to the original form; they are primarily symphonic works, characterized by considerable freedom of structure and tonality, and cast either in abstract forms or in greatly modified dance forms.