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Track(s) taken from CKD430

Brandenburg Concerto No 1 in F major, BWV1046

composer

Dunedin Consort, John Butt (conductor)
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Recording details: May 2012
Perth Concert Hall, Scotland
Produced by Philip Hobbs
Engineered by Philip Hobbs & Robert Cammidge
Release date: September 2013
Total duration: 20 minutes 44 seconds

Cover artwork: The Kermesse (c1638/8) by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Louvre, Paris / Bridgeman Art Library, London
 
1
[Allegro]  [4'02]
2
Adagio  [3'44]
3
Allegro  [4'11]
4

Other recordings available for download

The Brandenburg Consort, Roy Goodman (conductor)

Reviews

'Notwithstanding the distinguished Brandenburg discography, this set is nothing short of sensational' (Gramophone)» More

'These period instruments performances are refreshingly free from dogma and naturally embrace criteria believed to serve Bach's music best. Melodic ideas are beautifully punctuated and phrased, vibrato is used strictly ornamentally, and tempos strike my sensibilities as pretty well ideal. Perhaps what I like most of all, though, is an all-pervading atmosphere of intimate and convivial dialogue in which all the strands and multifarious colours emerge effortlessly from the full texture' (BBC Music Magazine)» More

'Certainly, the sixth is one of the revelations in this set … transformed into a profoundly expressive study in texture and articulation, with the string lines effortlessly and naturally interlaced … this set is exceptional' (The Guardian)» More

'Even at the first hearing, it is remarkable to find that this over-familiar music often sounds so different as to immediately captivate and engross the listener in a myriad different and unexpected ways, all of them refreshing and illuminating … no matter how many times you've heard the Brandenburg Concertos before, these readings have that rare capacity to make you feel you're hearing them afresh for the very first time' (International Record Review)» More
The first concerto is immediately prominent for its use of the two ‘hunting’ horns, those instruments most associated with the privilege of royal courts. Hunting was a particular metaphor in German states, which were basically a multiplicity of small courts (such as that at Cöthen where Bach worked: a small town, castle and – even today – lots of cows). Only the largest states such as Saxony and Prussia had real military pretensions, so the activity of hunting stood in for military might. The horn players (who were normally also the trumpeters) were the highest paid musicians and the more – and the better – a prince could afford, the more sumptuous his court appeared. Having said that, this concerto would still work were they to be omitted and this has sometimes been interpreted as a sign of Bach’s critique of social hierarchy (see the work of Michael Marissen, in particular). On the other hand, the horns contribute immensely to the style and ethos of the piece with their unabashed hunting calls. Indeed, Bach seems to have gone out of his way to make the horns clash against the rest of the texture.

An oddity about this concerto is the way the balance of the solo instruments seems to change in the course of the piece – perhaps a sign of the diverse origins of the work (an early version survives which lacks the third movement and part of the last). But it might equally represent Bach’s way of demonstrating the diversity and malleability of the genre at the outset of the collection. The piccolo violin (tuned a third higher than the standard string pitch for these concertos) first comes to prominence in the second movement, a beautiful, affecting lament that – with its piquant cross-relations – seems to all but follow a text which lies just beyond our ears. In the third movement the high violin appears in a more virtuosic light, but after this point it disappears again. This movement is also known as the opening chorus of the secular Cantata 207, ‘Vereinigte Zwietracht der wechselnden Saiten’, in which vocal parts seem to have been added to the instrumental texture. However, if Malcolm Boyd’s guess is right, both this and the Brandenburg version might go back to an earlier vocal model. Thus what we hear as the third movement of the first concerto might actually be the instrumental arrangement of a chorus – something which points to the wider concept of ‘concerto’, embracing vocal, as well as instrumental, music. This suggests that we should not think of these concertos purely as abstract, absolute music: their gestures, moods and rhetorical structure should perhaps be seen in a similar light to texted music.

The first concerto, uniquely, presents a fourth movement, a set of dances interspersed with repetitions of a French-style minuet. Just as vocal and instrumental genres were closer to one another than we might think, so too were the genres of ‘Italian’ concerto and ‘French’ suite. Not only does the return structure of the minuet parallel the ritornello form of an Italian concerto movement, dances sometimes form the basis of the longer concerto movements (the third movement of this concerto has many of the characteristics of a passepied, that of the sixth concerto is like a gigue).

from notes by John Butt 2013

Other albums featuring this work

Bach: The Brandenburg Concertos
CDD220012CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)
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