The minuet originates from France and became especially popular in the late 1700s when the Sun King (Louis XIV of France) held minuet dances in his court at Versailles.
Here is a minuet by one of the Sun King’s musicians who was called Francois Couperin.
What is a minuet?
A minuet is an elegant and moderately-paced dance which has three even beats and regular tunes. The minuet became one of the dances to form part of a special set of dances, favoured by Bach amongst others, which is called the Dance Suite.
Here’s the beginning of a Bach minuet from a dance suite which he wrote for a small orchestra. Can you hear how it has the same character and similar rhythm to the Sun King’s minuet?
The minuet developed into the minuet and trio by composers like Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
Here is a minuet and trio from one of Beethoven’s symphonies.
Below are some more minuets. Can you hear the similarity between these minuets and the earlier examples?
This is a minuet by Ravel which is meant to imitate the minuets of Couperin
This minuet by Haydn is part of his string quartet called ‘The Lark’.
Here is a minuet by the Austrian composer Schoenberg.