Monday, June 11, 2012

Bach - Concerto For Oboe d'amore In A Major

The musical world of J.S. Bach was one of transition.  The emphasis had been slowly changing from counterpoint and polyphony to harmonically accompanied melody, or monody.  Bach's own sons were leaders in the changes in music, while Bach was seen as somewhat old-fashioned.  It's not that the elder Bach was against the newer music as it was that his interest still lay in the possibilities of counterpoint and polyphony.

Of course not all of Bach's music was strictly contrapuntal.  The Concerto For Oboe d'Amore  has the solo instrument play a melody with as much as against the string parts.  Like all of Bach's concertos, there exists different versions of the work for different instruments. This concerto also exists in the form of a harpsichord concerto, but unlike most of Bach's other concertos it was not originally written for violin. There has been research done by Sir Donald Tovey proving that the concerto was originally written for the oboe d'amore.  The harpsichord version is the only one extant, but with the evidence supplied by Tovey the solo part was reconstructed from the harpsichord part.

Bach's time was also one of transition pertaining to musical instruments. The viola family existed alongside the violin family, the recorder alongside the transverse flute, the lute was still being played by some musicians, and even the early form of the piano existed alongside the harpsichord and clavichord. The oboe d'amore is a member of the double reed oboe family, midway in range between the oboe and the cor anglais. It was invented in the early 17th century.  Its tone is not as assertive as the oboe. Bach was fond of the instrument as he used it in his cantatas besides this concerto. The instrument fell out of use shortly after Bach's time but was revived by Romantic era composers such as Richard Strauss and Maurice Ravel.

The concerto for oboe d'amore has the traditional three movements:

I. Allegro - Bach has the full string orchestra play the opening of the concerto. The oboe d'amore adds its melodic statements in between the returning motive played by the strings. The movement has the grace and balance of a dance between the two.
II. Allegretto -  The difference between the opening movement and this one is like day and night. Where the mood was carefree and light, it has now turned sad and melancholic. The oboe d'amore plays one of Bach's most emotional, heart-felt tunes while being accompanied by a chromatic descent in the bass.
III. Allegro ma non tanto - The finale returns to the feelings of a dance and happier times.

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