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Harpsichord Concerto in D major, Op 1 No 6

composer

 
J C Bach’s set of six harpsichord concertos, Opus 1, was published in March 1763 and dedicated to the eighteen-year-old Queen Charlotte, to whom Bach had recently started giving singing lessons. Princess Charlotte Sophie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz had married King George III on 8 September 1761. She was a passionate music lover, and must have valued the opportunity to have lessons in her own language with a musician of Bach’s calibre. Several of her children were also to receive tuition from Bach, including the future kings George IV and William IV, and Queen Charlotte remained a life-long supporter, even arranging for the return journey of Bach’s wife to her native Italy after his death in 1782.

Because they were conceived on an intimate scale, to be played to the Queen as chamber music in the privacy of Buckingham House, the Opus 1 concertos are scored for the modest forces of two violins, cello and harpsichord. They enjoyed huge popularity in England and abroad for over a century, and when they were performed in public concerts it was not uncommon for violas (an octave higher) and double-bass (an octave lower) to double the cello line, and for horn parts to be added, although these were frequently inauthentic—even in those concertos where Bach specifically wrote for horns he evidently considered them optional.

Four of the concertos in the set employ the two-movement format favoured in the chamber music of the period, with an opening allegro being followed by a graceful minuet, but in the D major concerto which concludes the set Bach inserts after the elegant opening allegro a charming middle movement, in which the harpsichord’s lilting melody is accompanied by pizzicato strings. The finale is indeed a minuet of sorts, but his choice of theme on which to build a relatively unassuming set of variations would no doubt have amused as well as curried favour with the queen to whom the concertos were dedicated. God Save the King, whose musical provenance is unclear, had been established as England’s unofficial national anthem as recently as 1745, when it was first published (in Gentleman’s Magazine) and sung on the stages of London’s leading theatres as an expression of loyalty to the Hanoverian King George II in defiance of the looming threat from Charles Stuart in Scotland.

from notes by Ian Page © 2018

Recordings

Mozart in London
Studio Master: SIGCD534Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

Movement 1: Allegro assai
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Allegro moderato

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