Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 BWV 1050
Johann Sebastian Bach
|1||Allegro||0:09:29||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|2||Affettuoso||0:05:46||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|3||Allegro||0:05:35||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|1||Allegro||0:09:35||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|2||Affettuoso||0:05:15||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|3||Allegro||0:05:37||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|1||Allegro||0:09:34||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|2||Affettuoso||0:05:24||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
|3||Allegro||0:05:26||Add to Playlist||Play Now|
Mendelssohn wrote his Octet as a gift, a rich man’s affectionate gesture; Verdi wrote his quartet to pass the time. Bach wrote this concerto to order — and used it to try and get a job.
Like even the greatest musician of his time and beyond, Bach was regarded as little more than a servant, and he was utterly vulnerable to the whims of noble patrons. He had been employed by Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen for several very happy years around 1720. He enjoyed writing for the excellent court musicians, and created some of his greatest orchestral, chamber and keyboard works. But in 1721, Leopold became engaged to a woman whose tastes did not include supporting fine music with the vast sums Leopold customarily dispensed — and Bach seems to have seen the writing on the wall. He started looking for a new job.
Bach remembered that two years earlier, when Leopold sent him to Berlin to buy a new harpsichord, he had played for the Margrave of Brandenburg. This man had been so taken with him that he asked Bach to send some compositions for his library. Bach had never responded, and now decided to send the margrave a gift of such wonderful pieces that he could hardly resist offering Bach a position. He picked six recent concertos, painstakingly copied them, and had them expensively bound. He delivered this marvelous treasure to the margrave with an obsequious dedication in French ... and heard nothing. Ultimately the margrave’s loss was our gain, because Bach moved to Leipzig’s Thomaskirche in 1723 and stayed there for the rest of his life, creating the magnificent sacred works of his later years.
The sorry end to this tale is that Bach’s lavish gift seems to have lain untouched in the margrave’s library until his death in 1734. Perhaps the music was simply too complex for his musicians. Or perhaps the fact that each of the Brandenburg Concertos is written for its own distinctive instrumental line-up defeated him. They require a well-stocked ensemble of players to do them justice — a considerable expense. In any case, they lay neglected for more than a century, being rediscovered only in 1850 during the same Bach revival that Mendelssohn helped spark with his rediscovery of the St. Matthew Passion.
Each Brandenburg Concerto calls for a different orchestra divided in the manner of a concerto grosso, where a few instruments (concertino) lead a dialogue with the larger ensemble (ripieno). The soloists get the most virtuosic music, which the ensemble often complements with a recurring (or ritornello) theme.
The Fifth Brandenburg Concerto features a concertino of flute, violin and harpsichord; in the first movement they spin out graceful counterpoint between earnest statements of the ritornello. The spectacular harpsichord cadenza was novel at the time — the harpsichord usually stayed in the background — and it foreshadows the great keyboard concertos yet to come. The central movement is a gentile three-part aria for the concertino alone. The full ensemble returns for the finale, a rollicking gigue with fugal undertones.