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Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

Brandenburg Concerto No. 2

Rob Kapilow, commentator
Alicia McQuerrey, flute
Cassie Pilgrim, oboe
Lynn Erickson, trumpet
Nina Tso-Ning Fan, violin

Composer, commentator and most recent addition to our roster of Artistic Partners, Rob Kapilow is known throughout the music world for his special concert format, What Makes It Great?® “the kind of enlightening musical seminar in which you hang on to every word and note” (The New York Times). Kapilow joins the SPCO for an in-depth exploration of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 and will illuminate both the inner workings of the music and the process by which the SPCO Musicians work together as a conductorless ensemble.

For Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto, the distinctive solo group consists of trumpet, flute (substituting for the original recorder), oboe and violin. The trumpet Bach wrote for was a natural instrument without valves, meaning that the range was confined to the notes of the overtone series extending up from the instrument’s fundamental pitch. The low overtones are spaced widely, as in the typical intervals of bugle calls, so to play smooth melodies requires accessing the higher harmonics. Playing in this clarino range of the natural trumpet requires extreme control and strength, and it produces one of the brightest and most penetrating of all musical colors, lending the sonic palette of the Second Brandenburg Concerto its particular brilliance.

The jubilant opening movement makes up for the mismatched strength of the solo instruments by separating the voices out for individual statements and contrapuntal sparring. The more delicate aspects of the flute, oboe and violin emerge in the middle Andante movement, in which a walking bass line supports polyphonic weavings. A heralding call from the trumpet announces the Allegro assai third movement, initiating a rowdy finale that serves as a bookend to the unbridled joy of the opening movement.

Incidentally, the Second Brandenburg Concerto holds the unique distinction of being the work of human creation intended to demonstrate to anyone listening in deep space the presence of intelligent life on Earth. It is the first selection of music broadcasting from the Voyager Spacecraft, a vessel launched in 1977 that has since traveled beyond our solar system.

Aaron Grad ©2021

About This Program

Approximate length 1:40

Artistic Partner Rob Kapilow returns with his illuminating series What Makes it Great?® to explore one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s most celebrated works, the timeless Brandenburg Concert No. 2. In this special presentation of an SPCO holiday tradition, Rob will not only explore the inner workings of this Bach classic, but will provide insight into how Bach’s process works in all of the Brandenburg Concertos. Don’t miss this one-night-only special event that will help create a deeper understanding of these Baroque masterworks.

All audience members are required to present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to attending this event. Masks are required regardless of vaccination status. More Information

Concerts are currently limited to 50% capacity to allow for distancing. Tickets are available by price scale, and specific seats will be assigned and delivered a couple of weeks prior to each concert — including Print At Home tickets. Please email us at if you have any seating preferences or accessibility needs. Seating and price scale charts for the Ordway Concert Hall can be found at


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