From early in the 17th century until the form engaged the interest of Johann Sebastian Bach, various notable German composers - including Rosenmüller, Fischer, Fasch and Telemann - had contributed to the development of the orchestral suite or 'Ouverture', whose name betrays its French theatrical origins. From Bach himself only four such suites have survived thanks to the diligence of C.F.Penzel, a student at the Thomasschule from 1751, who made copies of Bach's MSS which he found there. Thus, neither the dates nor the order of composition of the suites can be established with any certainty. As to the present suite in D major, recent criticism suggests that it may originally have been written for strings only, and dates, in its final form from around 1731. Penzel's copy of the suite includes significant variants to be played by a solo violin (marked Violino Concertato) which are included here in the Appendices.
The score is newly-edited from the extant sources consisting of sets of parts (some in Bach's autograph) and copyist's scores are preserved in the Staastbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbestitz, Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv. This edition replaces the former Eulenburg miniature score edited by Wilhelm Altmann.