Kreiger - Bourree


The Bourree took its place as an optional movement in Baroque instrumental suites. It was originally a French dance in duple time, faster than a Gavotte and with a characteristic “dactylic” rhythm (long, short, short) which is clear in this piece. The Bourree was popular at the court of Louis XIV, and a folk version of it is still danced today in France.

A Bourree danced in period costume can be viewed at:

Pupil Match & Suitability

The student needs to be able to span an octave with the LH. They will have to be confident and well-prepared, since this piece is relatively short and simple, so plenty of musicality and stylistic awareness will be expected.

Style & Tempo

The Bourree is a Baroque duple-time dance, so the feel should be two minims rather than four crotchets in the bar. A tempo no lower than crotchet=140 bpm should be the aim, preferably with a sense of counting minims at 70 or more if the student is able to do this. Much above 80 bpm will make the ornaments sound hurried.

The piece would have originally been played on harpichord or clavichord. Listen to the harpsichord here in a performance of a Bouree by Bach.

Phrasing & Articulation

As the piece is built up from a single rhythmic pattern of two quavers and a crotchet the phrasing needs to be carefully shaped to avoid monotony. Think of how a violinist might phrase it to give it more expressive possibilities. Aim for a four-bar phrase but with a sense of two bar question-and-answer within that.

Articulation will be based on a harpsichord rather than a piano sound. Crotchets are lightly detached and can be given subtly different lengths by a very musically aware student, to vary the effect of the repeated rhythm that permeates this piece.

Quavers may be slurred in pairs although this is a choice to be made by the individual performer.

Tone & Texture

This is two-part counterpoint in which the hands have equally interesting lines most of the time. At cadence points, the LH should not be allowed to dominate.

Tone will be clear and springy, reflecting the dance origins of the music.

Dynamics can be “stepped” rather than graded, with f and p alternating to give light and shade, and echo effects can be tried in the middle section (Bars 5 and 6). Slight gradations of dynamics within these settings will help to give shape to phrases.


This is technically undemanding music provided consistent fingering is used. The student may need to be reminded to hold down the minim with the left thumb at the cadences in bars 3-4 and 11-12. Coordination between the two equal parts may take some slow patient practice.


To ensure accuracy and confidence in performance, fingering should be consistent and well learned.

Where the hand position needs to shift in Bars 4-6 a five-finger position can be adopted each time, starting (immediately after the double bar) with 1 on A in the LH and 2 on C in the RH. The next position will be in the upbeat to bar 6, with 1 on G LH and 2 on B RH.

For the final pattern (upbeat to Bar 7) there is a choice of repeating the previous LH1/RH2 or staying in place and putting the 2 over in the RH (fingering AGA as 121).


The trill in Bars 3 and 11 is a simple two-semiquaver shake starting with a quaver on the note above. See also “Teaching strategies”


Pedalling would not be appropriate in this style of music.

Teaching Strategies

This is such a short piece that it may be tempting to cut corners and allow less time for preparation. There are only 8 bars of music to learn! However, the repeated rhythm and the need for absolute clarity in playing provide their own challenges.

The relentless dactyls (long-short-short rhythms) can rapidly become tiresome unless the student is equipped to shape the phrases and vary the touch to give light and shade.

Practice Tips

Practise the ornaments slowly and in correctly measured rhythm to prevent them becoming a stumbling block.

When putting hands together, always use consistent fingering. This music is very simple in texture, which means that flaws are easier to hear. Inconsistent fingering will lead to hesitations and mis-hit notes.


Slow practice is key for obtaining a crisp hands-together sound. The student needs to listen very carefully and correct any ragged-sounding moments.

The sequence in Bars 4-6 requires a precise shift in hand position and the LH 2 must be made ready over its black note. Practise making the move to cover all the next group of notes and then pause and check that all the fingers are over the right notes. If not, go back to the previous position and make the movement again until the fingers all arrive correctly placed.

Hand shifting in Bar 8 may also need this type of practice. If the student gets into the habit of making a “near enough” move and then correcting just before playing the note, the result is much less secure.

Final Performance

In an examination the first repeat should be played, but not the second. However in a concert performance both repeats could be performed.

An excellent performance will be lively and sparkling. Dynamics will be well contrasted and the dance character of the music will be clear. Phrasing and articulation will be stylish, with ornaments adding a sense of exuberance.

A good performance will be accurately played with a clear sense of the dance. Ornaments will not hinder the tempo. Articulation will be well considered and dynamics varied.

A sound performance will avoid the monotony that the repeated rhythm could impose, with some sense of movement and dynamic variety. The ornaments may be a little rushed or hesitant but there will be an overall impression of careful preparation and some consideration of style.

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