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BACH, J.S.: Violin Concertos, BWV 1041-1043 and BWV 1052

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Johann Sebastian Bach(1685-1750): Complete Orchestral Works

Originals;Transcriptions; Reconstructions

Volume 2: ViolinConcertos

It seems that only a relatively small part of Bach's orchestral ceuvrehas been preserved for posterity. Much has been speculated about thereasons for the above-average losses in this particular field, but up till nowno really conclusive reasons have been found. The fact that so few works forinstrumental ensemble have survived particularly from the Weimar and Cothenperiods, during which the composer directed so many excellent ensembles, hasled many researchers to the hypothesis that Bach was obliged to leave themajority of his compositions in these places when he moved on to another post -a common custom for which much evidence can be found in many eighteenth centurydocuments; other considerations establish a connection with the distribution ofBach's compositions to his heirs after his death. Whatever the case, only onething is certain: that at the latest with Bach's death a veil of oblivion beganto sink over his orchestral works - partly caused also by a profound change intaste which began in the middle of the eighteenth century. Thus great effortwas necessary in the course of the Bach renaissance at the beginning of thenineteenth century to win back these works, which by then were completelyunknown even to Bach connoisseurs, into the performance repertoire.

Today Bach's orchestral works enjoy an enduring popularity once more.

Intensive study of this repertoire, which in spite of the regrettable gaps isin many ways incomparable, has led to the realization that only a part of theworks can be regarded as original compositions, whereas many of the concertosin the form in which they are known today represent transcriptions of pieceswritten earlier. Among the works of the first-named category are the BrandenburgConcertos and the three Violin Concertos, among the transcriptionsare all the concertos for one to three harpsichords, which are presumed to bebased on lost works for various melody instruments. The Concerto for fourharpsichords, BWV 1065 is a special case in that Bach did not take one ofhis own works as a basis but, exceptionally, a work by Antonio Vivaldi.

Comparative studies on Bach's technique of rearranging works have led again andagain to speculations about the possible form and structure of the lost workson which the arrangements are based, and as a consequence to attempts atreconstruction which have resulted in pieces which are stylistically convincingand which have proved their worth in practice; within the context of thisrecording these works are intended to help fill the gaps mentioned above.

The present complete recording of Bach's orchestral works illustratesgraphically the enormous musical variety and compositional quality of thissphere of his creative work. We meet the composer for the first time around1715 on his first pinnacle of mastery (Brandenburg Concerto No. 5) andaccompany him for approximately a quarter of a century up to the sublime worksof his maturity - the Overture BWV 1067 and the Triple Concerto BWV1044.

Bach's violin concertos were slow to establish themselves in the musicallife of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Audiences whose musicaleducation consisted of the symphonic concertos of the Classical and Romanticcomposers took exception to their "old-?¡fashioned" style, and greatviolin virtuosi doubted whether they could make a brilliant impression with them. Only gradually did one come to realisethat the Bach concertos were dedicated to a different aesthetic ideal which wasno longer directly comprehensible in more recent times, representing early butby no means imperfect forms of a genre which did not reach maturity untillater. Bach's individual treatment of the concerto form which had been takenover from Italy at the beginning of the eighteenth century is based - to put itbriefly - on a motivic-thematic integration of the solo part in the ensembletogether with a contrapuntal development involving all levels of the musicaltexture, to which sometimes even the concertante principle takes second place.

The Concerto inA minor BWV 1041 has come down to us in the form of an original set of partsdating from the period around 1730, and it is quite possible that this was thetime of composition and not earlier. Consequently the work belongs in thecontext of Bach's work with the students of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum, thedirection of which he had taken over in the spring of 1729. The striking aspectsof the concerto are the way solo and tutti themes are even more subtlyinterwoven than in the Concerto in E major, probably writtenconsiderably earlier, and the transparent polyphonic texture of thecomposition. A serious, densely-textured first movement is followed by aharmonically bold Andante, in which an expressive cantilena unfolds overan almost omnipresent bass theme. The final movement is in the form of a fugal Gigue,the character of which is determined by the agitated 9/8 rhythm and thecontinually intensifying virtuosity of the soloist.

The Concerto inE major BWV 1042 was presumably written, as can be concluded from variousstylistic features, during Bach's term of office as master of music at thecourt of Cothen (1718-1723). The first movement begins with a concise triadicmotif, followed by a series of developing and contrasting ideas. A small butsignificant aspect of the close association of the solo instrument with the tuttigroup are the short interpolations of the violin in the introductoryritornello. In the further course of the movement the motifs introduced at thebeginning are treated in various different ways and connected with one another- without the euphony and comprehensibility of the composition being reduced inany way. In the second movement a far-reaching cantabile lament on theviolin unfolds above a virtually ostinato bass theme, while the thirdmovement, a dance-like rondo, takes up the mood of the beginning again.

The Concerto fortwo violin, in D minor BWV 1043 is today one of the best-known andmost frequently performed works of the composer, above all by virtue of itssoulful, song-like middle movement. The customary term "DoubleConcerto" is only in a limited sense a suitable characterization of thiscomposition, for really it is a group concerto in which Bach realised to aconsiderable extent the concept of the juxtaposition of all participating partson a basis of equality and thus also levelled the difference between ritornelloand episode. This modification of the concerto concept is already indicatedin the original title of the work, in which the composer describes the piece as"Concerto...6". Like the concerto in A minor, the composition is notone of the works of the Cothen period, but was probably written around 1730 forthe Leipzig Collegium Musicum.

The Concerto inD minor BWV 1052 has survived only in the form of a harpsichordconcerto, but the figurations of the solo part disclose the fact that this isthe transcription of a lost violin concerto. It is not easy to fit this unusualwork conclusively into the correct historical context, and in the past doubtsabout the authenticity of this piece have repeatedly been expressed - certainlyunjustly, for as far as we know no other composer apart from Bach cultivatedsuch a concentrated and expressive concerto style in the first half of theeighteenth century. In unrivalled comp
Item number 8554603
Barcode 636943460320
Release date 03/01/2000
Category Concerto
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Pichlmeier, Christine
Blacher, Kolja
Stewart, Lisa
Pichlmeier, Christine
Blacher, Kolja
Stewart, Lisa
Conductors Muller-Bruhl, Helmut
Muller-Bruhl, Helmut
Orchestras Cologne Chamber Orchestra
Cologne Chamber Orchestra
Disc: 1
Concerto for Two Violins, D minor, BWV 1043
1 Allegro
2 Andante
3 Allegro assai
4 Allegro
5 Adagio
6 Allegro assai
7 Allegro
8 Adagio
9 Allegro
10 Vivace
11 Largo ma non tanto
12 Allegro
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