About this Recording
8.553220 - BACH, J.S.: Famous Works

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

Ouverture (Suite) No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067
Sheep May Safely Graze from BWV 208
Brandenburg Concerto No.4 in G major, BWV 1049
Piano (Clavier) Concerto No.1 in D Minor, BWV 1052
Toccata in D minor, BWV 565

Bach's early career was as an organist and as an expert on the construction of the instrument. In 1717, however, he moved to Cöthen as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen and there was able to devote more time to the composition and performance of instrumental music, largely through the Pietist leanings of the court and a consequent diminution of church music. It seems probable that the first and fourth of the four orchestral suites or Ouvertures were written during this period. It has been suggested that the second and third were written during Bach's final period of twenty-seven years in Leipzig. While his official responsibilities there were with church music, he was involved too with the secular repertoire of the University Collegium Musicum, founded by Telemann. The two suites may well have been written for that ensemble and it has been suggested that the flute part of the second suite was designed for the French flautist Euffardin, who had met Bach's younger brother in Constantinople and was, in any case, employed in Dresden at the court of Augustus II, overlord of Leipzig.

Suite No.2 in B minor is very much in the French style, as were many compositions of this kind in Germany in the first half of the eighteenth century, when French national taste predominated. The Ouverture is in the style developed under Lully in France, a solemn introduction in marked rhythm leading to a more rapid fugal section, ending with a return to the solemnity of the opening. A lively Rondeau follows and a stately Sarabande. The two Bourrées are played in alternation, followed by a Polonaise and succeeding variation by the flute. The suite ends with a Menuet and a Badinerie, a light-hearted and brilliant conclusion.

Sheep May Safely Graze is derived from a cantata by Bach and has won popularity in a variety of arrangements.

The set of six concertos dedicated in 1721 to the Margrave of Brandenburg, Christian Ludwig, youngest son of the Elector, were completed at Cöthen and shows a remarkable variety of instrumentation and treatment. There is no surviving indication of any commission for these works, apart from Bach's dedication to the Margrave, in which he reminds the prince that he had, a couple of years earlier, expressed a desire for something of Bach's. The concertos were sold, apparently in a lot of seventy-seven varied works of a similar kind, after the Margrave's death in 1734. Bach himself seems to have paid little attention to them, apart from re-using a movement from the first concerto for a secular cantata in 1726. The fourth concerto, in the key of G, BWV1049, and the fifth, in D, BWV 1050, are thought to be later than the other concertos of the set, composed probably in 1720. The former has a leading part for the solo violin, with additional solo parts of particular charm for two recorders.

The University collegium musicum in Leipzig met on Friday evenings at Gottfried Zimmermann's coffee-house or in summer in his garden outside the city. Bach took over direction of the group in 1729 and seems to have continued in that position until as late as 1744. Compositions for the collegium musicum, which involved students and professional musicians, presumably include the Coffee Cantata, and the various concertos for one or more harpsichords, with strings. The Clavier Concerto No.1 in D minor, BWV 1052, is believed to be based on an earlier violin concerto, a supposition supported by some of the figuration. Music from the concerto appeared in 1728 as the introductory sinfonia to Cantata No.188, Ichhabemeine Zuversicht, and the first two movements, the second with an added choral part, were used about the same time for the Easter Cantata No.146, Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal. The concerto boasts an energetic first movement, a heart-felt G minor aria, over a repeated bass pattern in the slow movement and a virtuoso final Allegro.

The famous D minor Toccata is an early work, probably written while Bach was organist at Arnstadt or at Mühlhausen, that is in 1706 or 1707, before he moved to Weimar.

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