Portrait of Bach by Elias Gottlob Haussman (Image Public Domain)

Portrait of Bach by Elias Gottlob Haussman (Image Public Domain)

This December Santa Fe Pro Musica presents all six of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos featuring the Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra and Soloists on Saturday, December 28 at 6pm and Sunday, December 29 at 3pm at St. Francis Auditorium inside the New Mexico Museum of Art – Thomas O’Connor, conductor.

The Program:

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
The Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1046-1051, performed in the following order:

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048
Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1049
Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major, BWV 1046


Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-Flat Major, BWV 1051
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047

Bach Signature

In 1721, J. S. Bach sent a set of six concertos to Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg. The Margrave shelved them in his library where they remained untouched. The concertos were rediscovered in the Berlin Imperial Library during the 19th century and published in 1850. The popular name Brandenburg Concertos was bestowed in 1873 by Philipp Spitta from his biography J. S. Bach. The collection, neatly copied in Bach’s handwriting, was titled Concerts avec plusieurs instruments (Concertos with several instruments). This modest title does not begin to suggest the degree of innovation exhibited. Every one of the six concertos set a precedent in its scoring and remains unparalleled.

Presumably, Bach selected the six Brandenburg Concertos from concertos he had written earlier, predating his meeting with the Margrave. The selection criteria appear to favor extreme diversity. All the orchestral families are included: brass (trumpet and French horn), woodwinds (oboe, flute, bassoon), strings (violin, viola, cello, viola da gamba), and harpsichord. The only instrument lacking a solo role is the bass.

The Brandenburg Concertos are in the style of the concerto grosso, one of the most popular instrumental forms of the Baroque period, featuring a group of solo instruments (concertino) supported by a larger group of string instruments (ripieno) with basso continuo (harpsichord and a bass instrument reinforcing the bass line).

The concert opens with Concerto No. 3, scored for three violins, three violas, three cellos, plus continuo. Throughout the two fast movements, Bach combines and recombines the three trios of instruments, having them echo and contrast with each other. The Adagio is a single measure that contains only a cadence connecting the two fast movements. It is conjectured that Bach’s intention was not the insertion of an additional contrasting movement, but an opportunity for the harpsichordist or first violinist to provide a brief improvisation.

Concerto No. 4 is scored for a trio of solo violin and two flutes, supported by the ripieno. Within the solo group, the violin is the most virtuosic participant, investing the music with the texture of a solo concerto. The flutes most often work in tandem, intoning their parallel motifs in consonant thirds and sixths, and can be considered a solo unit rather than separate soloists.

This is followed by Concerto No. 1, featuring a rich array of instruments in an eleven-part score: two French horns, three oboes, one bassoon, solo violin and ripieno (string orchestra). Both Allegro movements are characterized by vigorous interplay among the solo instruments and the orchestra. The solo violin and oboe lead in the Adagio. In the closing dances, four repetitions of the Minuet surround a trio for woodwinds, a Polish dance for strings, and another trio for horns and oboes.

After intermission comes Concerto No. 6, which is scored for two contrasting but low-register formations: two violas and cello (the “modern” four-stringers) and two violas da gamba and violone (the “old-fashioned” six-stringers). The unusual sonority created by the exclusive use of middle and low register strings is dark and mellifluous.

Concerto No. 5 consists of solo violin, flute, and harpsichord – the most fashionable chamber music combination at that time – and ripieno. As the concerto begins, all three soloists share equally, but the harpsichord becomes increasingly dominant and finally bursts into an extended solo cadenza, fully constructed by Bach. In the second movement, only the soloists play, with the violin and flute frequently paired in contrast to the harpsichord. Bach begins the third movement with only the soloists, gradually bringing in the ripieno one section at a time, reestablishing its concerto nature.

The grand finale of the evening is Concerto No. 2, scored for high-voiced instruments: trumpet, flute, oboe and violin. In the outer movements, all four soloists share the same material; no idiosyncratic differentiation between instruments. The Andante is for flute, oboe, solo violin and continuo. The outer movements have the energy of Vivaldi, however the brilliant fugal writing of the last Allegro is distinctively Bach.

The Brandenburg Concertos
Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra & Soloists
Thomas O’Connor, conductor

Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 6pm
Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 3pm

St. Francis Auditorium (at the New Mexico Museum of Art)
107 West Palace Ave. Santa Fe, NM 87501

TICKETS: $20, $35, $45, $65, Students and Teachers $10, at the Santa Fe Pro Musica Box Office (505) 988-4640, Tickets Santa Fe at The Lensic (505) 988-1234, or online at www.santafepromusica.com

Discounts for students, teachers, groups, and families are available exclusively through the Santa Fe Pro Musica Box Office.

Meet the Music: Thomas O’Connor, Santa Fe Pro Musica Conductor and Music Director, presents a “behind the scenes” discussion of the music, one hour prior to each concert in the St. Francis Auditorium – Free to ticket holders. Learn more about the music you love!

For more information, please visit our website: www.santafepromusica.com

© Santa Fe Pro Musica 2013


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