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8.553505 - BACH, J.S.: Concertos for Harpsichords, Recorders and Violins
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 -1750) Multiple Concerti

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 -1750)

Multiple Concerti

 

Among the works of Johann Sebastian Bach it is the concertos that present the most intractable problems. The first list of works published by Carl Philip Emanuel Bach and Johann Friedrich Agricola in the Necrology merely numbers various concertos for one, two, three and four harpsichords, adding "a quantity of other instrumental works of all kinds and for various instruments", presumably signifying all the then available chamber and ensemble music of Bach. It is not known exactly why the ensemble music of Bach is so obviously neglected, while the clavier and organ works are listed in detail. Perhaps it was that at Bach's death there was so much available that more exact statements seemed too difficult. There is, however, the possibility that the second son of Bach certainly remembered very well the manifold activity of his father as a composer and performer in this field, but found few traces of it in what he had left; the general listing of ensemble works was then the solution of a difficulty arising from the discrepancy between his memory and the actual situation. It seems from this that at the time of Bach's death there were only actually in existence the fifteen concertos for harpsichord known today and the three concertos for one or two violins.

 

It must be borne in mind that Bach in his years as a chamber musician and later as concert-master to Duke Wilhelm Ernst and Duke Ernst August of Sachsen-Weimar from 1709 to 1717 and above all as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen from 1717 until 1723 directed competent ensembles and was responsible for their repertoire. It is, therefore, astonishing that hardly anything can be traced of this output, since the concertos known today, apart from the Brandenburg Concertos, belong mainly to his period in Leipzig, from 1723 to 1750. This must not be taken as an indication of Bach's own self-critical distancing of himself from his earlier compositions, but alternatively may show that he had contracted to leave behind at his departure the compositions he had written during his service at Weimar and at Cothen (as is similarly documented for Gottfried Heinrich Stolzel and Georg Eenda and was at the time not at all unusual). Nevertheless Bach must have taken with him to Leipzig copies, perhaps the ideas of his compositions, since about 1740 he made from this material a series of harpsichord concertos, falling back, seemingly without exception, on earlier works for solo instruments.

 

The Concerto in F major, BWV 1057, for harpsichord and two recorders should be known to most music-lovers in its original version as the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto. Bach made his transcription about 1739/40, for a performance of his Leipzig Collegiufu musicum. For this transcription he left the string parts largely untouched and kept the sound quality of the original with the two recorders. The solo violin part he transferred to the harpsichord, giving special attention to the transcription of the idiomatic violin figuration. Bach retains in his transcription the finely judged interrelationship of the various instruments, in the solo group and between the concertino and ripieno, with the part for three soloists in the new composition expanded from the four-part original.

 

Among Bach's concertos the Concerto in A minor, BWV 1044, for flute, violin and harpsichord, the so-called Triple Concerto, has a special position. It can be placed beside the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto as a related work, its origin, its more sombre, elegiac character and its unusual density are, however, unique and make it on the whole an exceptional addition to the body of Bach's concertos. Unfortunately the work survives only in two copies by students of Bach, made seemingly after the death of their teacher, so that there is no verifiable evidence of its date of composition. From the maturity of style it is probable that it was written in the late 1730s or in the 1740s.

 

Like the other concertos with obligato harpsichord, the Triple Concerto is partly based on earlier work. In contrast to the F major Concerto this is not a transcription of a Cothen violin or wind concerto, but a far-reaching reworking of pieces for solo harpsichord or organ. The first movement is based on a Prelude with a Fugue, BWV 894 from 1714 at the latest, while the second movement is an arrangement of the second movement of the organ Trio Sonata, BWV 527. Unlike the other concerto arrangements, in which only the solo parts must be adapted for the new medium, while the orchestral part remains substantially the same, here the material of the Prelude and Fugue is adapted for the solo part of the harpsichord, to which Bach then adds newly composed parts for the other two solo instruments and for the orchestra. The original trio structure of the graceful central movement is expanded into a quartet that, with an exchange of parts in the repetition, is played by the soloists alone. In spite of this Bach creates here a unified work, a compositional tour de force, in which there is no doubt of the artistic skill and great originality.

 

The Concerto in D minor, BWV 1063, for three harpsichords, is of particular originality. Its origin is unknown and there are widely differing theories on the matter. According to an old tradition, stemming perhaps from Bach's pupils or from his family circle, he wrote the work for himself and his two oldest sons, to provide a chance of developing every kind of performance talent. This would suggest a composition date of about 1730, just before Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel left home. This theory, however, does not explain the heterogeneous nature of the work and the different handling of the solo instruments in all three movements, which must suggest, as in the case of BWV 1044, a pasticcio. Bach shows in this work his sovereign mastery and at the same time his free handling of the Vivaldi concerto-form, which is seen in the first movement, for example, in motivic writing and in several places a development that breaks down the barriers between the ritornello and the solo episodes. At the climax of the movement, at the entry of the final ritornello, the ritornello theme and the virtuoso figuration of the first harpsichord are intermingled. The second movement, uniquely among Bach's concertos, is a simple two-part dance-movement, with varied repetitions, while the final movement is in the commonly found fugal form.

 

The Concertos BWV 1064 and BWV 1060 survive only in versions for two and three harpsichords and orchestra, but it is today the accepted view that these are arrangements of concertos for three violins and violin and oboe respectively. Since the harpsichord parts of both these concertos in many places show evidence of the supposed original, the reconstruction in the case of BWV 1064 is not insurmountable and in the case of BWV 1060 the difficulties are not insuperable.

 


The Concerto for Three Violins is a work of great density and almost symphonic dimensions. The three soloists who are given difficult sometimes virtuoso parts in the first movement come forward within their own obligato parts in the ritornello sections. In the second movement the melodic line of the soloists develops over an ostinato recurrent bass pattern and provides a contrast with the complexity of the outer movements. The third movement is akin to the first in its structure, with fugal ritornelli and ha~onically wide-ranging episodes that are particularly worthy of note.

@ 1995 Peter Wollny (English version by Keith Anderson)

 


Gerald Hambitzer

Gerald Hambitzer was born in Bonn in 1957 and studied harpsichord in Cologne with Hugo Ruf. He has appeared with the baroque orchestra Concerto Koln throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, and couples expertise in the harpsichord with an interest in the fortepiano and the clavichord. He teaches in Cologne and Saarbriicken and has won esteem for his recordings of music by C.P.E.Bach and Durante.

Robert Hill

Robert Hill is professor of historical keyboard instruments at the Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik in Freiburg and is a pupil of Gustav Leonhardt. His doctorate at Harvard University was awarded for a study of the early keyboard music of }ohann Sebastian Bach. An active performer on the fortepiano, Robert Hill couples practical performance with research into nineteenth and early twentieth century performance practice.

 


Elisabeth Kufferath

Born in 1969, the violinist Elisabeth Kufferath was a frequent winner in Jugend musiziert competitions in Germany and in 1990 was a prize-winner in the Cleveland Institute of Music Competition, the following year winning first prize at the competition of the Tuesday Musical Club in Akron, Ohio. Her career has taken her as a performer to engagements throughout Europe and the United States of America.

Eva Morsbach

The recorder-player Eva Morsbach was born in 1962 and studied in Cologne with Gtinther Holler, with lessons from Mareijke Miessen, Marion Verbrtiggen, Han Tol and Manfredo Zimmermann. She has appeared at numerous festivals of early music with leading ensembles and taken part in radio and compact disc recordings. Since 1989 she has been on the teaching staff of the Rheinische Musikschule in Cologne.

 


Christoph Anselm Noll

Christoph Anselm Noll studied sacred music, organ, harpsichord and oboe in Cologne and Stuttgart, his professional career following a number of competition prizes. He has appeared as harpsichordist and organist with early music ensembles of great distinction and is on the teaching staff of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz and of the Detmold Musikhochschule.

Christine Pichlmeier

Christine Pichlmeier was born in Munich in 1974 and studied in Cologne with Igor Ozim. She was a frequent winner in Jugend musiziert competitions in Germany from 1982 to 1989 and was a prize-winner in the Yfrah Neaman Competition in 1991, taking first prize in 1992 in the International Kloster Schontal Competition. Concert tours have taken her to engagements throughout Germany, in Great Britain and in Russia.

 


Winfried Rademacher

Professor of violin at the Musikhochschule in Trossingen, Winfried Rademacher is a pupil of Josef Suk and Sandor Vegh, and was deeply influenced by the Amadeus Quartet and by Nathan Milstein. After numerous national and international prizes he has appeared as leader and as soloist with orchestras of international distinction both in the concert-hall and in the recording studio. He plays a Nicolo Gagliano violin from 1733.

Felix Reimann

Born in 1964, the flautist Felix Reimann studied with Paul Meisen in Munich and with Andras Adorjan in Cologne. In 1991 he was awarded a Deutscher Musikwettwerb scholarship and the following year won the Tonger Competition in Cologne. He completed his studies in 1994 and has since served as principal flautist in the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra.

 


Ingeborg Scheerer

A pupil of Max Rostal and of Siindor Vegh, Ingeborg Scheerer was in 1974 one of the founders of the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie and has ever since performed in leading positions with various orchestras in Germany, playing period as well as modern instruments. Her repertoire ranges from earlier music to the contemporary and she has taken part in many recordings.

Nadja Schubert

Born in 1971, Nadja Schubert studied with Giinther Holler, Walter van Hauwe and Han Tol, winning Jugend musiziert first prizes in Germany in 1985, 1988 and 1989. In 1992 she founded the Nadja Schubert Quartet, an ensemble that has dedicated itself to cross-over projects of classical music and jazz, with a first recording in 1994.

 


Andreas Spering

Born in 1966, Andreas spering studied piano and organ and graduated in 1990 in sacred music. Since then he has dedicated himself principally to early music and was for four years a member of Musica Antiqua Kbln. Many concerts, recordings and broadcasts bear witness to his artistic achievement, which has more recently led him to work as a conductor.

Cologne Chamber Orchestra

The Kblner Kammerorchester (Cologne Chamber Orchestra) was founded by Hermann Abendroth in the late 19205 and quickly won a reputation as one of the leading chamber orchestras in Germany. In 1963 the direction of the orchestra was taken over by Abendroth's pupil Erich Kraack Helmut Miiller-Briihl and since then the ensemble has undertaken concert tours

throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. From 1976 to 1986 Helmut Miiller- Briihl formed from the orchestra the Capella Clementina, a period instrument ensemble, and from this experience the Chamber Orchestra itself has derived a fuller understanding of methods of earlier music performance on modern instruments. The orchestra has more than 200 recordings to its credit, in addition to regular radio and television recordings.

 


Helmut Miiller-Briihl Helmut

Miiller-Briihl studied philosophy and theology, as well as art and musicology, and from this background acquired a wide and varied theoretical basis for his work as a musician, expressed in his work as a conductor and as a violin pupil of Wolfgang Schneiderhahn. He has conducted the Cologne Chamber Orchestra since 1963 and has appeared as a guest conductor throughout Europe in the concert-hall and in major opera-houses. He has devoted his attention in particular to Baroque and early classical music.

 


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