Johann Sebastian Bach {1685-1750}

Brandenburg Concerto Number Six in B Flat {BWV 1051)

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach on March 21, 1685 and died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750. The date on the dedication of the Six Brandenburg Concerti to Christian Ludwig Margrave of Brandenburg is March 24, 1721. The Margrave's musicians never performed the Concertos, and they remained unpublished until 1850.

The Concertos call for an unprecedented variety of instruments, -from the homogeneous string sound to the heterogeneous mixing of woodwind, brass, strings and solo keyboard, Of the six, numbers 1, 3, and 6 are orchestral concertos, making use of more-or-less evenly balanced instrumental choirs; whereas Nos. 2, 4, and 5 are concerti grossi with a small group of soloists heard against the tutti background. Recently, musicologists have speculated that Bach must have written many more such works that are now lost.

Bach scored the sixth concerto in this set for a combination of string instruments that is unusual in several ways. Firstly, it features the low sounding members of the string family -no violins. Secondly, the solo instruments -two violas da braccio and a cello -and the accompanying tutti instruments -two violas da gamba, violone, and harpsichord - are unusual instruments for Bach. Finally, at the beginning of the first movement the solo violas play in close canon, only an eighth note apart, like a closely argued conversation. The canonic writing becomes even more complex as the movement goes on. The choices of instruments as well as the contrapuntal complexity suggest to some Bach scholars that this Concerto might be one of his earliest instrumental works.

The second movement is a beautiful duet for the two solo violas with cello and harpsichard, while the third movement is a joyful gigue -the most exuberant of the dance-based movements found in Baroque music.

Brandenburg Concerto Number Five in D Major (BWV 1050}

As the opening movement of the Brandenburg Concerto Number Five in D major unfolds, the harpsichord, seems at first willing to play a subservient role as part of the continuo. But as time goes on it becomes more and more assertive until finally it bursts forth into an astonishing cadenza of tremendous difficulty. Violin and flute share the solo spot at the beginning. but once the cadenza begins, they are cast completely into the shade. At the opening of the cadenza, we are listening to the dying strains from the keyboard as mere continuo accompaniment and the birth of the virtuoso harpsichord concerto.

The second movement (Affettuoso or "tenderly, lovingly"), is a chamber piece for the solo instrurments with continuo. a format that was very common in the Baroque concerto.

The finale. an Allegro, is written in 2/4 time, but the beats are subdivided by triplets, which gives to the ear the impression of a rollicking Jig, to close the conccrto in high spirits.

Carl Phillipp Emmanuel Bach (1714-1788)

Concerto for Flute, Strings, and Continuo in G Major (Wq 169)

The 18th century Prussian court of Frederick the Great was one of the most important musical centers of the time. His employment of the leading musicians, teachers and composers is now legend. One of the most important composers in the ranks of Frederick the Great was the son of J.S. Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel.

C.P.E. Bach composed more than 300 works for His Majesty many of them for the King's chosen instrument, the transverse flute. Of Bach's five extant flute concertos, the G major is probably the last, dating from 1755. These concertos must have presented Frederick. though an able flutist, considerable challenges. Perhaps Frederick's lack of appreciation of Bach's works accounts for the alternative versions of them for harpsichord, cello and organ. Bach extended the practice of rearranging established works by his father but tailored the virtuoso passagework to better suit each solo instrument.

C.P.E. is remembered not only for his compositions but for preserving all of his father's works that he could; and, moreover, by his writings we obtained information how Baroque music should be played.