In 1717 Bach had difficulty in obtaining release from his position as court organist in Weimar and it was only after a brief period of imprisonment that he was allowed to leave and take up a more distinguished position as director of music at the court of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. Here he had little concern with the simple church music of the Pietist court, but turned his attention to instrumental music, including a varied set of six concertos for the small court orchestra. These six concertos take their title Brandenburg from the Margrave of Brandenburg, to whom they were dedicated, no doubt in the hope of further employment from such a noted patron. The first Brandenburg Concerto has virtuoso solo parts for two horns, oboes and a violino piccolo, a small-size, higher pitched violin. The second concerto uses solo trumpet, recorder, oboe, violin and a string orchestra, with the usual harpsichord continuo. The third of the set, perhaps written in Weimar, uses strings only - three violins, three violas and three cellos, a darker hued texture.
Recommended recording: Bach: Brandenburg Concertos 1 - 3, with the Capella Istropolitana and soloists, directed by Bohdan Warchal.