Friday, October 21, 2011

Bach - Harpsichord Concerto No.1 in D Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750) wrote some of the first concertos for keyboard and strings. He wrote seven for solo keyboard and strings and wrote others for 2, 3 and 4 harpsichords. All of the solo concertos are transcriptions of Bach's own concertos for solo melody instrument such as violin. In many cases it is only the harpsichord transcription that survives complete.

Bach was the director of the Collegium musicum in Leipzig, a student musical society that gave concerts.  He led this group from 1729 to 1741, and it is believed Bach wrote these concertos for performance at these concerts.The D minor concerto sees Bach use the same music for strings as in the original violin concerto while the solo part is filled out harmonically from the solo violin part of the original. Bach obviously strove to make the keyboard version as virtuosic as the violin version. Bach was familiar with his contemporary Vivaldi's concertos and they exerted a large influence on Bach's concerto style.

The concerto is in three movements:
  1. Allegro - Written in ritornello form, which simply put, has the orchestra play a recurring passage after which the solo instrument develops fragments of the passage. This dialogue between orchestra and soloist continues, with each repetition of the original passage whole or in part being in a different key and the soloist expanding the passage  until the piece ends with orchestra and soloist playing the original passage in the home key.
  2. Adagio - A very expressive movement, the right hand of the soloist plays the melody of the original violin version that Bach has masterfully transformed to the full harmony and texture of the harpsichord while the left hand plays with the string accompaniment.
  3. Allegro - This movement is also in ritornello form and is thematically related to the first movement. 
Bach's Harpsichord Concerto #1 in D Minor:

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