Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 BWV 1048
|1||[Allegro moderato]||0:06:01||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|2||Adagio||0:00:21||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|3||Allegro||0:05:32||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
From 1717, Bach was happily employed by Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, a music-loving aristocrat who spent lavishly on musicians, instruments and Bach. In response, the composer created magnificent masterpiece after masterpiece. But in 1721, Leopold married, and his new wife was not so hot on music. Spending cuts loomed, and rather than wait to be dismissed, Bach sought a new employer. He remembered that the margrave of Brandenburg had once asked him to send compositions. He had done nothing about it, but now decided to remind the margrave of his existence with a lavish gift: six outstanding concertos, expensively bound, and topped off with this obsequious dedication:
Six Concertos with Several Instruments, Dedicated to His Royal Highness, Monseigneur Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg &. &. &. by His very humble and obedient servant, Johann Sebastian Bach, Kapellmeister of His Most Serene Highness the Reigning Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen.
Bach may as well have saved his efforts. His gift lay untouched in the Brandenburg library until, sometime after the margrave’s death, it was sold as part of a job lot.
Bach probably did not write the six concertos especially for the margrave. The varied and brilliant ensembles they require point to Anhalt-Cöthen as the source, since few other courts boasted such a virtuosic band. And they are not so much a set as a collection. Every piece is strikingly different from its fellows. This concerto, with its groups of three players, is a special tour de force: nine instruments weaving in and out of each other’s paths in close proximity. In less skillful hands it could have turned out muddy, dense and horribly complex, but Bach’s writing is lucidity itself. Uniquely, in his concertos, he doesn’t write out all three movements. Aside from a few notes, the Adagio is left as a tantalizing question for the players to respond to in their own way — or simply treat as a short pause between movements.
In the end, the neglectful margrave actually did Bach a huge favor, because in 1723, Bach landed his dream job at Leipzig’s Thomaskirche, where he remained for the rest of his life. And the margrave? He would surely be mortified to know he went down in history as the man to whom Bach presented a fabulous gift — and he never knew what he had.