Johann Sebastian BACH
The Six Brandenburg Concertos
The Four Orchestral Suites

Brandenburgisches Bachorchester
Conductor Franz-Peter Müller


BACH 741

1: Brandenburg Concerto No 1
in F Major, BWV 1046
Allegro - Adagio - Allegro
Menuetto - Trio 1 - Polacca - Trio 2 - Menuetto reprise

2: Brandenburg Concerto No 2
in F Major, BWV 1047
Allegro - Andante - Allegro

3: Brandenburg Concerto No 3
in G Major, BWV 1048
Allegro - Ad libitum - Allegro

4: Brandenburg Concerto No 4
in G Major, BWV 1049
Allegro - Andante - Presto

Total time 62:39

BACH 742

1: Brandenburg Concerto No 5
in D Major, BWV 1050
Allegro - Affetuoso - Allegro

2: Brandenburg Concerto No 6
in B flat Major, BWV 1051
Allegro - Adagio ma non tanto - Allegro

3: Orchestral Suite No 1
in C Major, BWV 1066
Ouverture - Courante - Gavotte 1 - Gavotte 2 - Forlane - Menuettes 1 & 2 - Bourrées 1 & 2 - Passepieds 1 & 2

Total time 64:22

BACH 743

1: Orchestral Suite No 2
in b minor, BWV 1067
Ouverture - Rondeau - Sarabande - Bourrées 1 & 2 - Polonaise - Menuet - Badinerie

2: Orchestral Suite No 3
in D Major, BWV 1068
Ouverture - Air - Gavotte - Bourrée - Gigue

3: Orchestral Suite No 4
in D Major, BWV 1069
Ouverture - Bourrées 1 & 2 - Gavotte - Menuettes 1 & 2 - Réjouissance

Total time 59:11

Bach's SIX BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS are rightfully regarded as being among the most popular orchestral works of the baroque period, combining as they do the baroque arts of counterpoint with a light and tuneful quality making them instantly and universally enjoyable.

They were written around 1721, when Bach was in service at the Court of the young music-loving Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. Bach began to look around for a new position, and seeing the Margrave of Brandenburg as a possible employer and patron Bach, referring to a previous meeting with the Margrave, sent him the six "Brandenburg Concertos" accompanied by an elaborate dedication.

History shows no record of the concertos having been performed. The manuscripts were re-discovered at the Margrave's death in 1734, wrapped and bunched together with some lesser material to be sold for a total of two thalers. Fortunately, the "lot" was picked up by Bach's faithful pupil Johann Philipp Kirnberger, who of course immediately appreciated their true value.

The individual concertos themselves provide an opportunity for each of the Margrave's musicians - and those of our own Brandenburg Bach Orchestra - to take a turn. In the scores we find beside the usual strings, hunting horns, oboes, bassoon, trumpet, viols, recorders, flute, and in the Fifth, a concertante harpsichord - something of a novelty at a time when harpsichords were expected to provide a beat and continuo bass only, and like Victorian children, should be seen but not heard. Bach would surely have intended to perform this demanding score with its brilliant cadenza himself.

The Six Concertos follow the usual three-movement pattern of fast-slow-fast. The notable exception is the first concerto, which then for some reason best known to its composer, further entertains us with a Minuet, two Trios and a Polacca, turning the concerto into more of an orchestral suite. Bach re-worked these latter movements in 1730 as a Sinfonia.

As to the FOUR ORCHESTRAL SUITES, there is some uncertainty as to whether they, like the Brandenburg Concertos, were Cöthen works, or whether they date from Bach's early years in Leipzig. It does appear however, that Bach resurrected them for performance at the Concerts held in Zimmermann's Coffee House when, in the spring of 1729, Bach took over directorship of the Collegium founded by Telemann in 1702.

The concerts were given on Zimmermann's premises, probably under his auspices. During the winter, the group played every Friday night, from 6 to 8pm, in Zimmermann's coffee house on the Catherine Strasse, centrally placed close to the Marktplatz. In the warmer months, the music was moved outdoors, to Zimmermann's coffee garden "in front of the Grimma gate, on the Grimma stone road" - so the address is given in contemporary reports, with summer performances on Wednesdays, from 4 to 6pm.

These concerts were serious events, given outside of the regular coffee shop hours, and were thus not merely an ornament to the usual culinary attractions. The performances of the Collegium were, in fact, hardly different from what we consider to be normal concert procedure today. Indeed, the word "concert" began to be used expressly in connection with the Collegium during its later years.

The programmes for these concerts would have included instrumental music, ranging from clavier solos through sonatas to orchestral works. Occasionally, too, vocal music might be given; such an example is the Coffee Cantata, BWV 211, first presented in 1732. It is also on record that works of Handel, Vivaldi, Telemann, Locatelli, Albinoni and others were performed. Bach's four Orchestral Suites, written in the French style with a grand opening followed by a series of stately dance-forms, would certainly have made splendid listening; indeed, the instrumentation would perhaps have leant itself to performance at the summer concerts held out of doors.

Baroque Music Library