Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Music of the Great Composers – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Another series attempting to depict a survey of highlights from the Canon of Western Music, we begin with Bach. There are people who are devoted to particular composers, and among them Bach usually enjoys quite a following. Among the earliest orchestral works by Bach, of which I was to get to know, turned out to be the First Brandendurg Concerto [F Major BWV 1046] written sometime before 1721 by the fairly well situated 36 year old composer.

There are six of these concerti, among them the fifth which is a great keyboard concerto. They were never performed during Bach's lifetime and he never got paid a dime for them as far as anyone knows. In fact they might have faded into history or perhaps been irretrievably lost had they not been re-discovered in a dusty library in 1849 and circulated and performed widely thereafter.

From my earliest acquaintance with this first concerto, the performance standards have changed considerably. During the 20th century and before that, it seemed customary to try to adapt earlier music to fit a more modern (usually larger) ensemble of players usually producing a bigger thicker sound, which maybe did nothing to preserve the best aspects of an earlier musical style involving much interplay among voices in the musical texture.. More modern performances seem intent to try and incorporate some authentic or “period” aspects; limiting players per part, using period instruments or allowing extensive musical filigree (sometimes called ornaments or mannerisms), which are supposed to indicate something of the freedom allowed talented musicians of the time. These would perhaps interest younger players and audiences who might be hearing this music for the first time.

So here is the Brandenburg Concerto #1 in F Major BWV 1046, played by Mozart-Orchester under the direction of Claudio Abbado.

4. Menuet - Trio I - Menuet da capo - Polacca - Menuet da capo - Trio II - Menuet da capo

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