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(swēt), in music, instrumental form derived from dance and consisting of a series of movements usually in the same key but contrasting in rhythm and mood. The principle of the suite can be seen in the playing together of two dances in contrasting meters, e.g., pavan and galliard or passamezzo-saltarello in the 16th cent. The early 17th-century English composers William Byrd, John Bull, and Orlando Gibbons published small groups of dances, with several movements written for the virginals. In France and Italy there developed sophisticated techniques for linking dances together, which were adopted by German musicians in the early 17th cent. As the connection with actual dancing disappeared, the baroque suite evolved. In France stylized dances were collected into ordres such as those of François CouperinCouperin, François
, 1668–1733, French harpsichordist and composer, called "le Grand" to distinguish him from the other musicians in his family. His harpsichord music, in its charm, delicacy, and graceful ornamentation, represents the culmination of French rococo.
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, while in Italy nondance movements were introduced into the developing sonata da camera (see sonatasonata
, in music, type of instrumental composition that arose in Italy in the 17th cent.

At first the term merely distinguished an instrumental piece from a piece with voice, which was called a cantata.
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). In Germany the suites of Johann Jakob Froberger established the basic group of movements as allemande, courante, and sarabande, with a gigue often played between the last two. The gigue was later the final movement of four. The late baroque suite, e.g., the partitas of J. S. Bach, frequently has an introductory movement and one or more of several simpler dances—minuet, bourrée, gavotte, passepied, and others—added to the basic group. Suites for orchestra, including Bach's, were sometimes called ouvertures. In the classical period the serenadeserenade
[Ital. sera=evening], term used to designate several types of musical composition. Opera and song literature yield numerous examples of the serenade sung or played by a lover at night beneath his beloved's window; outstanding is Deh, vieni alla finestra
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 was a kind of suite. Mozart wrote several of this sort for orchestra. The 19th-century suite became a collection of pieces drawn from incidental music for plays or from the score of a ballet, e.g., Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.



one of the principal cyclic forms of instrumental music. A suite consists of several independent, usually contrasting movements united by a common artistic intent. The movements of a suite, in comparison with those of a sonata or symphony, are more independent, and their relation to one another is not so strictly prescribed; they also have a more direct association with songs and dances and with visual expressiveness.

The prototype of the suite was the contrasting juxtaposition of a slow dance (pavane) and a fast dance (galliard), which had become common as early as the 16th century. The classical type of dance suite took form in the works of J. J. Froberger in the mid-17th century; it consisted of four dances—the moderately fast allemande, the fast courante, the slow saraband, and the energetic jig. In addition to these, suites in the 17th and 18th centuries included the minuet, gavotte, bourne, passepied, and polonaise, nondance pieces such as the prelude, overture, aria, and rondo, and doubles, variations on one of the dances. All of the movements were usually written in the same key and were intended for the lute, harpsichord, orchestra, or other instrument or ensemble. The term “suite” was first used by French composers for the lute in the late 17th century. At this time, several different terms were used for a group of dances: in England, “lessons” (H. Purcell), in Italy, balletto or later sonata da camera (A. Corelli), in Germany, Partie (J. Kuhnau) or Partita (J. S. Bach), and in France, ordre (F. Couperin). Bach and F. Handel created sublime examples of the classical suite. In the second half of the 18th century, during the age of Viennese classicism, the suite yielded its position of importance to the sonata and symphony but continued to exist in the form of cassations, serenades, and divertimenti (Mozart).

In the 19th and 20th centuries, suites have been primarily non-dance forms for orchestra, sometimes including individual movements in dance rhythms (F. Lachner and Tchaikovsky). Such suites are frequently program pieces, for example, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade. They are often composed from music for theatrical productions, operas, ballets (Grieg’s Peer Gynt and Tchaikovsky’s and Prokofiev’s ballet suites), and films. Some suites have also been linked with folk dance traditions (Dvořák and Bartók). The vocal suite and choral suite are special variants.

The term “suite” also designates a musical and choreographic composition consisting of several dances.


Popova, T. Siuita. Moscow, 1963.
Nef, K. Geschichte der Sinfonie und Suite. Leipzig, 1921.
Blume, F. Studien zur Vorgeschichte der Orchestersuite im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert. Leipzig, 1925.



(computer science)
A collection of related computer programs run one after another.


A connected group of rooms arranged or designed to be used as a unit.


1. a number of connected rooms in a hotel forming one living unit
2. Music
a. an instrumental composition consisting of several movements in the same key based on or derived from dance rhythms, esp in the baroque period
b. an instrumental composition in several movements less closely connected than a sonata
c. a piece of music containing movements based on or extracted from music already used in an opera, ballet, play, etc.


A group of items. Pronounced "sweet." See application suite.