Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1, 2, &3

 Johann Sebastian Bach
1685 - 1750

“To His Royal Highness Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg, etc., etc., etc.  Sire:  Since I had the happiness of playing at the command of Your Royal Highness a few years ago, and I saw that you took some pleasure in the small talents for music that heaven has give me, and that, in taking leave of Your Royal Highness, you did me the honor of asking that I send you several of my compositions:  therefore, following your gracious command, I take the liberty of offering my most humble respects to Your Royal Highness with the present concertos, which I have arranged for several instruments…”

Beginning with these words, Bach offered some of the most sublime music ever written to the Margrave of Brandenburg.  The dedication date was March 24, 1721 and the volume was originally entitled “Six concertos with several instruments.”    The popular title “Brandenburg Concertos” was not given until more than 150 years later.

What the Margrave of Brandenburg actually thought of Bach’s work or whether or not he even had any of them performed is uncertain.   The original manuscripts appeared untouched although, of course, copies could have been made.

Fortunately for us, it seems that Bach did not compose the music specially for the Margrave, but gathered together six of the concertos he had composed for his own use over a period of years.

Of interest in the first and second concertos is Bach’s use of horns.  Bach was one of the earliest composers to use horns as a regular part of the orchestra.  Originally used as an instrument for hunting calls, Bach’s writing called for these early valveless horns to perform a full range of virtuoso technique.

My favorite of the three concertos is number three in which we can hear Bach’s inspiration from the Italian composer, Vivaldi.  Having loved our week with Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons,”  I could only appreciate more fully the complexity of this Baroque classic.

Kid Critique:

Ella:  I loved it!  It sounds beautiful and interesting.
Arielle:  I liked the steady beat.  It’s not too slow and it’s not too wild.
Anna:  It sounds exciting.
Samuel:  Mom, this song is as old as you are!  (I guess I look pretty good for my age!)

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