Accompanied by the Concertgebouw Kamerorkest (Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra), the Bulgarian violinist Vesko Eschkenazy performs Johann Sebastian Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041. Recorded on 14 April 2013 at the Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Published by the AVROTROS Klassiek channel.
Bach’s Violin Concerto
This violin concerto is “generally thought to have been composed at Cöthen in 1717-23”, although Christoph Wolff has raised the possibility that the work may have been written in Leipzig, perhaps during Bach’s time as director of the Collegium Musicum. In any event, the only autograph source to survive are parts Bach copied out (along with other copyists) in Leipzig circa 1730 from a now-lost score or draft.
The piece has three movements:
- Allegro, in A Minor (2/4) meter. The motifs of the theme of the Allegro moderato appear in changing combinations and are separated and intensified throughout the movement.
- Andante, in C Major (4/4) meter. In the Andante, Bach uses an insistent pattern in the ostinato bass part that is repeated constantly in the movement. He focuses on the variation in harmonic relations. An ostinato (derived from Italian: stubborn, compare to English: ‘obstinate’) is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch. The best-known ostinato-based piece may be Ravel’s Boléro. The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody in itself.
- Allegro assai, in A Minor (9/8) meter. In the finale of his violin concerto in A minor, Bach relies on bariolage (the bowed instrument musical technique known as bariolage involves a quick alternation between a static note and changing notes, that form a melody either above or below the static note. This technique is common to Baroque violin music, where the static note is usually an open string note.
In the final movement, the bariolage with the open string creates a highly resonant sound. The meter and rhythm are those of a gigue. The gigue is a lively baroque dance originating from the British jig. It was imported into France in the mid-17th century and usually appears at the end of a suite.
The gigue was probably never a court dance, but it was danced by nobility on social occasions and several court composers wrote gigues. A gigue is usually in 3/8 or in one of its compound meters derivatives, such as 6/8, 6/4, 9/8, or 12/8, although there are some gigues written in other meters, as for example the gigue from Johann Sebastian Bach’s first French Suite (BWV 812), which is written in 2/2.
The piece is a baroque concerto which is in ritornello form. This means that there is a main section that comes back in fragments in both the solo violin, piano, and orchestral parts. This ‘ritornello’ can be found in the first movement up until bar 24.
A ritornello (Italian; “little return”) is a recurring passage in Baroque music for orchestra or chorus. The first or final movement of a solo concerto, concerto grosso, or aria may be in “ritornello form”, in which the ritornello is the opening theme, always played tutti, which returns in whole or in part and in different keys throughout the movement. In these visits to different keys, the ritornello form differs from the rondo.
Ritornello form was favored by Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann, and Handel in chamber works, vocal pieces, and, most prominently, in solo concerti and concerti grossi in a “tutti-solo-tutti-solo-tutti” pattern.
The Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra is a Dutch chamber orchestra from Amsterdam. It was founded in 1987.
- Violin Concerto in A minor (Bach) on Wikipedia
- Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D Major, RV 208 (Grosso Mogul), Augusta McKay Lodge, Voices of Music - December 3, 2022
- Bach: Concerto for 2 Harpsichords & Strings in C Major, BWV 1061 [Katia & Marielle Labèque, Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini] - December 2, 2022
- Mozart: Flute Concerto in D Major [Henrik Wiese] - November 27, 2022