Friday, 23 December 2016

Interesting, and Unusual Changes in the Singing of the Gaudete

A Treasury of Early Music

Above link the Tenebrae version of Gaudete

Gaudete (English pronunciation: /ˈɡdt/; Ecclesiastical Latin: [gawˈdetɛ] "rejoice" in Latin) is a sacred Christmas carol, which is thought to have been composed in the 16th century, but could easily have existed as a monophonic hymn in the late medieval period, with polyphonic Alto, Tenor, and Bass parts added during the 15th century, particularly due to its Medieval Latin lyrics. The song was published in Piae Cantiones, a collection of Finnish/Swedish sacred songs published in 1582. No music is given for the verses, but the standard tune comes from older liturgical books.
The Latin text is a typical medieval song of praise, which follows the standard pattern for the time - a uniform series of four-line stanzas, each preceded by a two-line refrain (in the early English carol this was known as the burden). Carols could be on any subject, but typically they were about the Virgin Mary, the Saints or Christmastide themes.


The complete text of "Gaudete", including the refrain:
Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ has born
(Out) Of the Virgin Mary – rejoice!
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
The time of grace has come—
what we have wished for,
songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante
God has become man,
(With) nature marvelling,
The world has been renewed
By Christ (who is) reigning.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is raised,
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra concio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore, let our preaching
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.
There are references to the Christ, Virgin Mary, Grace, Ezekiel and Salvation.


Steeleye Span[edit]

The electric folk group Steeleye Span had a hit in 1973 (No. 14, UK singles chart) with an a cappella recording of the song. Guitarist Bob Johnson had heard the song when he attended a folk-carol service with his father-in-law in Cambridge, and brought it to the attention of the rest of the band. (Unlike the album version which fades up slowly and fades down slowly, the single was at the same volume for the entire length of the song.)
This single is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung fully in Latin (the others were both recordings of "Pie Jesu" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem; firstly by Sarah Brightman and Paul Miles-Kingston in 1986, secondly as a minor hit by the 12-year-old Charlotte Church in 1998). In 1975 Mike Oldfield had a top 10 hit with "In Dulci Jubilo" but this Latin song was performed as an instrumental. "Oh What a Circus" from the 1976 musical Evita, and a hit single performed by David Essex, includes a choral chant in Latin, based on the Catholic anthem "Salve Regina".
"Gaudete" is also one of only a handful of a cappella performances to become hit singles. (Other notable examples are "Only You," sung by the Flying Pickets, "After the Gold Rush," sung by Prelude and "Caravan of Love," sung by the Housemartins.) When "Gaudete" was performed on Top of the Pops, the resident dance troupe walked onto the set in medieval-style robes, holding candles, followed by the members of Steeleye Span.

Other recordings[edit]


  • The Swedish ensemble Joculatores Upsalienses on their album Woods, Women and Wine 1990, with emphasis also on the rhythm by using a drum. Jo.Ups. always used authentic, sometimes a bit unconventional, but always probable instruments or hand-clapping.
  • British vocal ensemble King's Singers recorded "Gaudete" for their 1990 A Little Christmas Music album.
  • The Boston Camerata, under the direction of Joel Cohen, recorded a version of "Gaudete" entitled "Gaudete, Gaudete" for the 1991 album A Renaissance Christmas.
  • An arrangement featuring the Choir of Clare College Cambridge, accompanied by a cello ensemble, descant recorder and medieval tabor under the direction of Geoffrey Simon, was recorded in 1996 for a CD entitled A Cello Christmas on the Cala Records label.
  • Irish choral group Anúna performed "Gaudete" on their 1996 CD, Omnis with a solo by Eurovision Song Contest (1996) winner Eimear Quinn.
  • In 1997 it was recorded by the female vocal group Mediæval Bæbes as part of their No. 2 selling classical recording Salva Nos and also on their Christmas themed recording Mistletoe and Wine (2003).
  • The Canadian traditional group Ceilidh Friends included a version on their 1997 Christmas album The Spirit of Giving.
  • Icelandic choir Kammerkór Hafnarfjarðar released a CD in 1998 called Gaudete. That CD contains mainly Christmas music from various parts of the world. "Gaudete" is the first track of the CD.
  • In 1999, harpist Kim Robertson offered a rendition of the song on her disc The Spiral Gate.
  • El Duende performed this song on Excelsis, Volume 2: A Winter's Song (1999).


  • The British boy choir Libera recorded "Gaudete" on their 2001 album Luminous, and performed the song on Aled Jones' DVD Aled's Christmas Carols in 2008.
  • A version using a male soloist was released on Anúna's CD and DVD Celtic Origins (2007) and was broadcast across the USA in 2007-2008 on PBS.
  • Tenebrae released a version arranged by Karl Jenkins, both with percussion and as a pure a cappella version in October 2004 on the album Gaudete.
  • German medieval rock band Schelmish performed "Gaudete" on their 2006 album Mente Capti.
  • Chris Squire and a choir recorded a rock version on the 2007 Christmas album Chris Squire's Swiss Choir.


  • Choral ensemble Anúna include the song in an arrangement by Michael McGlynn on the PBS Television special Anúna : Celtic Origins and the CD release of the same name (2007).
  • Irish Singer Liz Madden recorded a version on her 2010 album My Irish Home.
  • "Gaudete" was recorded a cappella by Pure Reason Revolution as a Christmas bonus track on their EP, "Valour" (2011).
  • British alternative rock band Cauda Pavonis included a recording of "Gaudete" on their 2012 Christmas EP entitled Saturnalia.
  • The Celtic group Celtic Thunder recorded "Gaudete" on their 2013 album Christmas Voices.
  • On 28 October 2013, British synthpop group Erasure released their electronic version of "Gaudete" as the first single off their Christmas-themed album Snow Globe. Their version reached the Top 30 in UK indie singles chart and the Top 40 in Billboard dance chart.[1]
  • British symphonic medieval folk rock band Serpentyne released an extended version of "Gaudete" on their 2014 album Myths and Muses.


  • In 2013 a parody arrangement of "Gaudete", called "Crudités",[2][3] was released by the British folk duet Blanche Rowen & Mike Gulston.
  • A parody of "Gaudete", replacing the original words of the verses by sex-related terms, was recorded by the German medieval metal band Potentia Animi on their 2004 album Das Erst Gebet.
  • In the TV comedy I'm Alan Partridge, Alan manages to take Jill from his production company on a date to an owl sanctuary. In the car on the way home, Alan promises Jill something that "will blow your socks off" before singing along to a version of Gaudete on the car stereo


External links[edit]

Thursday, 15 December 2016

A Ceremony of Carols

A Treasury of Early Music

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A Ceremony of Carols
by Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten, London Records 1968 publicity photo for Wikipedia crop.jpg
The composer, 1968
CatalogueOp. 28
Textexcerpts from The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, ed. Gerald Bullett
LanguageMiddle English, Early Modern English, Latin
Composed1942 (1942)
ScoringOriginally for three-part treble chorus, solo voices, and harp. Later arranged for soprano, alto, tenor, bass
A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28, is a choral piece by Benjamin Britten, scored for three-part treble chorus, solo voices, and harp. Written for Christmas, it consists of eleven movements, with text from The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, edited by Gerald Bullett; it is in Middle English. The piece was written in 1942 while Britten was at sea, going from the United States to England.
The piece was written at the same time as Britten's Hymn to St. Cecilia and is stylistically very similar. Originally conceived as a series of unrelated songs, it was later unified into one piece with the framing processional and recessional chant in unison based on the Gregorian antiphon "Hodie Christus natus est", heard at the beginning and the end. A harp solo based on the chant, along with a few other motifs from "Wolcum Yole", also serves to unify the composition. In addition, the movements "This Little Babe" and "Deo Gracias" have the choir reflecting harp-like effects by employing a canon at the first in stretto.
The original 1942 publication was written for SSA (Soprano, Soprano, Alto) children’s choir. In 1943, an SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) arrangement was published for a full choir. Many of the movements are written as rounds or call-and-response pieces – lyrically simple for the sake of the children performing. The SATB arrangement shows these origins quite clearly throughout many of the movements; this is most notable in Balulalow. There are three-part divisis in both the tenor and bass parts. Each of these lines individually mirrors a line in either the soprano or alto parts, as though the tenor and bass sections are a men’s choir singing the original SSA composition with an SSA choir.[1]


1. "Procession" ("Hodie Christus natus est", Gregorian antiphon to the Magnificat at Second Vespers of Christmas)[edit]

This movement is sung exclusively by the sopranos [link] and is patterned off of a traditional processional in Christian church service. It has no time signature and can be sung a variety of tempos as to make the movement more flexible. The last several measures can be repeated to allow for the whole of the ensemble take their place.
Text: Hodie Christus natus est,Hodie Salvator apparuit,Hodie intera canunt angeli,Laetantur archangeli, Hodie exsultant justi dicentes, Gloria in excelsis deo. Alleluia![1]

2. "Wolcum Yole!"[edit]

An upbeat and festive piece intended to welcome the audience as guests coming to celebrate the holiday. The text of this piece is written in Middle English.[1] At one point, all of the parts come in at separate times to introduce each guest that has arrived for the holidays; the tenors begin by welcoming St. Stephen and St. John, the altos then welcome “the innocents” which are implied to be children, followed by the sopranos welcoming Thomas à Becket, and finally the basses welcome all of the previous guests stated.[1]
Text: Wolcum be thou hevenè king, Wolcum Yole! Wolcum born in one morning, Wolcum for whom we shall sing! Wolcum be ye, Stevene and Jon, Wolcum, Innocentes every one, Wolcum, Thomas marter one, Wolcum be ye good newe yere, o good newe yere, Wolcum, twelfthe day both in fere, Wolcum, seintes lefe and dere, Wolcum yole, wolcum! Candelmesse, Quene of Bliss, Wolcum bothe to more and lesse. Wolcum be ye that are here, Wolcum alle and make good cheer! Wolcum alle another yere, Wolcum yole, Wolcum![1]

3. "There is no rose" (Trinity College MS 0.3.58, early 15c)[edit]

There is no Rose presents a more reverent tone than the previous movement, as the choir admires the beauty of the birth of Jesus Christ. The sopranos and altos sing the melody in a soft, prayerful manner, while the rest of the ensemble occasionally joins them to sing in unison. This is a macaronic piece, meaning the text is in both a vernacular language (English, in this case) and Latin.[1]
Text: There is no rose of such vertu, As is the rose that bare Jesu. (Alleluia) For in this rose conteinèd was Heaven and earth in litel space, (Res miranda) By that rose we may well see, There be one God in persons three, (Pares forma) The aungels sungen the shepherds to: Gloria in excelsis Deo! (Gaudeamus) Leave we all this werldly mirth, and follow we this joyful birth.Transeamus! Alleluia, Res miranda, Pares forma, Gaudeamus, Transeamus.[1]

4a. "That yonge child"[edit]

That yongë child, consists of a soprano solo with harp accompaniment. The reverent tone from the previous piece carries over into this one, except this piece is more recitative.[1]
Text: That yongë child when it began weep With song she lulled him asleep: That was so sweet a melody It passèd alle minstrelsy. The nightingalë sang also: Her song is hoarse and nought thereto: Whoso attendeth to her song And leaveth the first then doth he wrong.[1]

4b. "Balulalow" (the brothers Wedderburn, fl. 1548)[edit]

Balulalow, includes the rest of the ensemble and acts as a contrast to the first part. Balulalow has a different key, rhythm, and an overall more jubilant tone than That yongë child. Balulalow is meant to be a lullaby for baby Jesus Christ and the soprano solo at the beginning of the movement paints an image of The Virgin Mary singing a lullaby to her newborn child. The consistency of tones between the lines at the end of the movement clearly harkens back to the original SSA arrangement.[1]
Text: O my deare hert, young Jesu sweit, Prepare thy creddil in my spreit, And I sall rock thee to my hert, And never mair from thee depart. But I sall praise thee evermoir With sanges sweit unto thy gloir; The knees of my hert sall I bow, And sing that richt Balulalow![1]

5. "As Dew in Aprille" (Sloane 2593, first quarter 15c)[edit]

As dew in Aprille switches the focus from baby Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary, which is reflected in this gentle, soothing piece, which progressively grows softer until the very end. Throughout this movement, the different voice parts overlap each other to create an echoing effect. The volume of the choir abruptly shifts at the end from pianissississimo (very, very, very softly) to forte (loudly).[1]
Text: I sing of a maiden That is makèles: King of all kings To her son she ches. He came also stille There his moder was, As dew in Aprille That falleth on the grass. He came also stille To his moder’s bour, As dew in Aprille, That falleth on the flour. He came also stille There his moder lay, As dew in Aprille That falleth on the spray. Moder and mayden was never none but she: Well may such a lady Goddes moder be.[1]

6. "This Little Babe" (from Robert Southwell's "Newe Heaven, Newe Warre", 1595)[edit]

This little Babe contrasts to every other piece up to this point, taking a much darker approach and often using imagery of hell. This piece depicts a battle between baby Jesus Christ and Satan (good and evil), which is conveyed in its swift tempo, polyrhythms, overlapping segments between the voices, and the fact that the song grows progressively louder over the duration of the movement. The song reaches its climax with an intense key change and conflicting rhythm from the rest of the piece.[1]
Text: This little Babe so few days old, Is come to rifle Satan’s fold; All hell doth at his presence quake, Though he himself for cold do shake; For in his weak unarmèd wise The gates of hell he will surprise. With tears he fights and wins the field, His naked breast stands for a shield; His battering shot are babish cries, His arrows looks of weeping eyes, His martial ensigns Cold and Need, and feeble Flesh his warrior’s steed. His camp is pitchèd in a stall, His bulwark but a broken wall;The crib his trench, haystalks his stakes; Of shepherds he his muster makes; And thus, as sure his foe to wound, The angels’ trumps alarum sound. My soul, with Christ join thou in fight; Sticks to the tents that he hath pight. Within his crib is surest ward; This little Babe will be thy guard. If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly Boy![1]

7."Interlude" (harp solo)[edit]

This movement is performed halfway through the performance. The harp solo creates a sense of angelic bliss with its slow tempo, shifting rhythm, and progressively soft nature.

8. "In Freezing Winter Night" (Southwell)[edit]

This movement calls out to the circumstances of the birth of Christ and employs the choir to sing in a round to create an echoing effect. The choir and harp progress through the movement at contrasting paces and, over the duration of the piece, gradually synchronize until they both move at the same pace just before the ending when the music fades out. This is meant to symbolize the discord on earth before and during the birth of Christ and the hope of the future and the harmony he brings.[1]
Text: Behold, a silly tender babe, in freezing winter night, In homely manger trembling lies Alas, a piteous sight! The inns are full; no man will yield This little pilgrim bed. But forced he is with silly beasts In crib to shroud his head. This stable is a Prince’s court, This crib his chair of State; The beasts are parcel of his pomp, The wooden dish his plate. The persons in that poor attire His royal liveries wear; The Prince himself is come from heav’n; This pomp is prizèd there. With joy approach, O Christian wight, Do homage to thy King, And highly praise his humble pomp,Wich he from Heav’n doth bring.[1]

9. "Spring Carol" (16c., also set by William Cornysh)[edit]

Spring Carol is a duet between two sopranos that depicts the signs of spring. It originates from a carol set by William Cornish. This movement ends with a call to thank God, which transitions appropriately to the next movement.[1]
Text: Pleasure it is to hear iwis, The Birdès sing, The deer in the dale, The sheep in the vale, The corn springing God’s purvayance For sustenance. It is for man. Then we always to him give praise, And thank him than.[1]

10."Deo Gracias" (Sloane 2593)[edit]

Deo Gracias (Thanks Be to God) is based off a macaronic (a mix of English and Latin) poem from the 15th Century. The original text tells of the events that happened in Chapter 3 of Genesis, the “Fall of Man” as Eve is tricked into eating the fruit of sin. At the end of the piece, a cross can be displayed in the text to signify the crucifixion of Christ as well as the redemption of mankind. Britten has set the choir in such a way that the choir becomes emphatic in its thanks to God. Use of syncopated (emphasis of the off beat to create a displacement of rhythm) and staccato (short and detached) rhythms emphasize this energetic thankfulness, while only a small section very quietly recounts the plight of humanity. The harp and choir both gradually grows more resounding until the very last chord.[1]
Text: Deo Gracias! Adam lay ibounden, bounden in a bond; Four thousand winter thought he not to long. Deo Gracias!And all was for an appil, an appil that he took, As clerkès finden written in their book. Deo Gracias! Ne had the appil takè ben, Ne haddè never our lady A ben hevenè quene. Blessèd be the time That appil takè was. Therefore we moun singen. Deo Gracias![1]

"Recession" ("Hodie")[edit]

This movement is a near mirror of the Procession and the ensemble, typically, performs this piece as they exit the stage. Its melody gradually fades as the ensemble retreats outside of the venue.[1]
Text: Hodie Christus natus est, Hodie Salvator apparuit, Hodie intera canunt angeli, Laetantur archangeli, Hodie exsultant justi dicentes, Gloria in excelsis deo. Alleluia![1]


Recordings of the complete work include:
  • Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford (1982)[2]
  • Westminster Cathedral Choir (1986)[3]
  • Australian Boys Choir (2013)


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Britten, Benjamin (1943). A Ceremony of Carols. Boosey & Hawkes. 
  2. Jump up ^ Academy Sound & Vision: ASV CD QS 6030
  3. Jump up ^ Hyperion: CDA66220

Further reading[edit]

  • Carpenter, Humphrey. Benjamin Britten: A Biography (London: Faber, 1992) ISBN 0-571-14324-5

External links[edit]

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Nice on Bach

A Treasury of Early Music

A Pop Music version of Bach curtesy  of Nice

Nice 1970.JPG

The Brandenburg Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 1046–1051, original title: Six Concerts à plusieurs instruments)[1] are a collection of six instrumental works presented by Bach to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt,[2] in 1721 (though probably composed earlier). They are widely regarded as some of the best orchestral compositions of the Baroque era.

Maybe later |Close


Bach wrote out the music himself for presentation to the Margrave rather than leaving it to a copyist. While he took the opportunity to revise the music, most likely, it was not freshly composed. He appears to have selected the six pieces from concertos he had composed over a number of years while Kapellmeister at Köthen, and possibly extending back to his employment at Weimar (1708–17).[3]
Bach's dedication to the Margrave was dated 24 March 1721. Translated from the original French, the first sentence of Bach's dedication reads:
As I had the good fortune a few years ago to be heard by Your Royal Highness, at Your Highness's commands, and as I noticed then that Your Highness took some pleasure in the little talents which Heaven has given me for Music, and as in taking Leave of Your Royal Highness, Your Highness designed to honour me with the command to send Your Highness some pieces of my Composition: I have in accordance with Your Highness's most gracious orders taken the liberty of rendering my most humble duty to Your Royal Highness with the present Concertos, which I have adapted to several instruments; begging Your Highness most humbly not to judge their imperfection with the rigor of that discriminating and sensitive taste, which everyone knows Him to have for musical works, but rather to take into benign Consideration the profound respect and the most humble obedience which I thus attempt to show Him.[4][5]
Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt (1710, Antoine Pesne)
Bach's reference to his scoring the concertos for "several instruments" (Concerts avec plusieurs instruments) is an understatement. Bach used the "widest spectrum of orchestral instruments … in daring combinations," as Christoph Wolff has commented.[6] "Every one of the six concertos set a precedent in scoring, and every one was to remain without parallel." Heinrich Besseler has noted that the overall forces required (leaving aside the first concerto, which was rewritten for a special occasion) tallies exactly with the 17 players Bach had at his disposal in Köthen.[7]
Because King Frederick William I of Prussia was not a significant patron of the arts, Christian Ludwig seems to have lacked the musicians in his Berlin ensemble to perform the concertos. The full score was left unused in the Margrave's library until his death in 1734, when it was sold for 24 groschen (as of 2014, about US$24) of silver. The autograph manuscript of the concertos was only rediscovered in the archives of Brandenburg by Siegfried Wilhelm Dehn in 1849; the concertos were first published in the following year.[8]
The manuscript was nearly lost in World War II, when being transported for safekeeping to Prussia by train in the care of a librarian. The train came under aerial bombardment, and the librarian escaped the train to the nearby forest, with the scores hidden under his coat.[9]
In the modern era these works have been performed by orchestras with the string parts each played by a number of players, under the batons of, for example, Karl Richter and Herbert von Karajan. They have also been performed as chamber music, with one instrument per part, especially by (but not limited to) groups using baroque instruments and (sometimes more, sometimes less) historically informed techniques and practice. There is also an arrangement for four-hand piano duet by composer Max Reger.

The individual concertos[edit]

No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046[edit]

Title on autograph score: Concerto 1mo à 2 Corni di Caccia, 3 Hautb: è Bassono, Violino Piccolo concertato, 2 Violini, una Viola col Basso Continuo.[1]
  1. [no tempo indication] (usually performed at Allegro or Allegro moderato)
  2. Adagio in D minor
  3. Allegro
  4. Menuet – Trio I – Menuet da capo – Polacca – Menuet da capo – Trio II – Menuet da capo
Instrumentation: two corni da caccia (natural horns), three oboes, bassoon, violino piccolo, two violins, viola, cello, basso continuo.
Duration : About 22 minutes
This concerto is the only one in the collection with four movements. The concerto also exists in an alternative version, Sinfonia BWV 1046a, which appears to have been composed during Bach's years at Weimar. The Sinfonia, which lacks the third movement entirely, and the Polacca from the final movement, appears to have been intended as the opening of the cantata Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd, BWV 208. This implies a date of composition possibly as early as the 1713 premiere of the cantata, although it could have been used for a subsequent revival.[10]
The first movement can also be found as the sinfonia of a later cantata Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht, BWV 52, but in a version without the piccolo violin that is closer to Sinfonia BWV 1046a. The third movement was used as the opening chorus of the cantata Vereinigte Zwietracht der wechselnden Saiten, BWV 207, where the horns are replaced by trumpets.

No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047[edit]

Title on autograph score: Concerto 2do à 1 Tromba, 1 Flauto, 1 Hautbois, 1 Violino, concertati, è 2 Violini, 1 Viola è Violone in Ripieno col Violoncello è Basso per il Cembalo.[1]
  1. [no tempo indication] (usually performed at Allegro)
  2. Andante in D minor
  3. Allegro assai
Concertino: clarino (natural trumpet) in F, recorder, oboe, violin
Ripieno: two violins, viola, violone, and basso continuo (including harpsichord)
Duration: About 13 minutes
The trumpet part is still considered one of the most difficult in the entire repertoire, and was originally written for a clarino specialist, almost certainly the court trumpeter in Köthen, Johann Ludwig Schreiber.[11] After clarino skills were lost in the eighteenth century and before the rise of the historically informed performance movement of the late twentieth century, the part was usually played on the valved trumpet.
The clarino does not play in the second movement, as is common practice in baroque era concerti. This is due to its construction, which allows it to play only in major keys. Because concerti often move to a minor key in the second movement, concerti that include the instrument in their first movement and are from the period before the valved trumpet was commonly used usually exclude the trumpet from the second movement.
The first movement of this concerto was chosen as the first musical piece to be played on the Voyager Golden Record, a phonograph record containing a broad sample of Earth's common sounds, languages, and music sent into outer space with the two Voyager probes. The third movement served as the theme song for William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Firing Line.

No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048[edit]

Title on autograph score: Concerto 3zo a tre Violini, tre Viole, è tre Violoncelli col Basso per il Cembalo.[1]
  1. [no tempo indication] (usually performed at Allegro or Allegro moderato)
  2. Adagio in E minor
  3. Allegro
Instrumentation: three violins, three violas, three cellos, and basso continuo (including harpsichord)
Duration: About 10 minutes
The second movement consists of a single measure with the two chords that make up a 'Phrygian half cadence'[12] and—although there is no direct evidence to support it—it was likely that these chords are meant to surround or follow a cadenza improvised by a harpsichord or violin player. Modern performance approaches range from simply playing the cadence with minimal ornamentation (treating it as a sort of "musical semicolon"), to inserting movements from other works, to cadenzas varying in length from under a minute to over two minutes. Wendy Carlos's three electronic performances (from Switched-On Bach, Switched-On Brandenburgs, and Switched-On Bach 2000) have second movements that are completely different from each other.
Occasionally, the third movement from Bach's Sonata for Violin and Continuo in G, BWV 1021 (marked Largo) is substituted for the second movement as it contains an identical 'Phrygian cadence' as the closing chords. The Largo from the Sonata for Violin and Obbligato Harpsichord in G major, BWV 1019, has also been used.
The outer movements use the ritornello form found in many instrumental and vocal works of the time. The first movement can also be found in reworked form as the sinfonia of the cantata Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte, BWV 174, with the addition of three oboes and two horns.

No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049[edit]

Title on autograph score: Concerto 4to à Violino Principale, due Fiauti d'Echo, due Violini, una Viola è Violone in Ripieno, Violoncello è Continuo.[1]
  1. Allegro
  2. Andante in E minor
  3. Presto
Concertino: violin and two recorders (described in the original score as "fiauti d'echo").
Ripieno: two violins, viola, cello, violone and basso continuo
Duration: About 16 minutes
The violin part in this concerto is extremely virtuosic in the first and third movements. In the second movement, the violin provides a bass when the concertino group plays unaccompanied.
It has been debated what instrument Bach had in mind for the "fiauti d'echo" parts. Nowadays these are usually played on alto recorders,[13] although traverse flutes are sometimes used instead: it is also theorized Bach's original intent may have been the flageolet.
Bach adapted the 4th Brandenburg concerto as a harpsichord concerto, BWV 1057.

No. 5 in D major, BWV 1050[edit]

Title on autograph score: Concerto 5to à une Traversiere, une Violino principale, une Violino è una Viola in ripieno, Violoncello, Violone è Cembalo concertato.[1]
  1. Allegro
  2. Affettuoso in B minor
  3. Allegro
Concertino: harpsichord, violin, flute
Ripieno: violin, viola, cello, violone, (harpsichord)
Duration: About 23 minutes
The harpsichord is both a concertino and a ripieno instrument: in the concertino passages the part is obbligato; in the ripieno passages it has a figured bass part and plays continuo.
This concerto makes use of a popular chamber music ensemble of the time (flute, violin, and harpsichord), which Bach used on its own for the middle movement. It is believed that it was written in 1719, to show off a new harpsichord by Michael Mietke which Bach had brought back from Berlin for the Köthen court. It is also thought that Bach wrote it for a competition at Dresden with the French composer and organist Louis Marchand; in the central movement, Bach uses one of Marchand's themes. Marchand fled before the competition could take place, apparently scared off in the face of Bach's great reputation for virtuosity and improvisation.
The concerto is well suited throughout to showing off the qualities of a fine harpsichord and the virtuosity of its player, but especially in the lengthy solo cadenza to the first movement. It seems almost certain that Bach, considered a great organ and harpsichord virtuoso, was the harpsichord soloist at the premiere. Scholars have seen in this work the origins of the solo keyboard concerto as it is the first example of a concerto with a solo keyboard part.[14][15]
An earlier version, BWV 1050a, exists, and has many small differences from its later cousin, but no major difference in structure or instrumentation. It is dated ca. 1720/1721.

No. 6 in B flat major, BWV 1051[edit]

Title on autograph score: Concerto 6to à due Viole da Braccio, due Viole da Gamba, Violoncello, Violone e Cembalo.[1]
  1. [no tempo indication, alla breve] (usually performed at Allegro or Allegro moderato)
  2. Adagio ma non tanto (in E-flat major, ends in an imperfect cadence of G minor)
  3. Allegro
Instrumentation: two viole da braccio, two viole da gamba, cello, violone, and harpsichord
Duration: About 16 minutes
The absence of violins is unusual. Viola da braccio means the normal viola, and is used here to distinguish it from the viola da gamba. When the work was written in 1721, the viola da gamba was already an old-fashioned instrument: the strong supposition that one viola da gamba part was taken by his employer, Prince Leopold, also points to a likely reason for the concerto's composition—Leopold wished to join his Kapellmeister playing music. Other theories speculate that, since the viola da braccio was typically played by a lower socioeconomic class (servants, for example), the work sought to upend the musical status quo by giving an important role to a "lesser" instrument. This is supported by the knowledge that Bach wished to end his tenure under Prince Leopold. By upsetting the balance of the musical roles, he would be released from his servitude as Kapellmeister and allowed to seek employment elsewhere.[16]
The two violas start the first movement with a vigorous subject in close canon, and as the movement progresses, the other instruments are gradually drawn into the seemingly uninterrupted steady flow of melodic invention which shows the composer's mastery of polyphony. The two violas da gamba are silent in the second movement, leaving the texture of a trio sonata for two violas and continuo, although the cello has a decorated version of the continuo bass line. In the last movement, the spirit of the gigue underlies everything, as it did in the finale of the fifth concerto.


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g Johann Sebastian Bach's Werke, vol.19: Kammermusik, dritter band, Bach-Gesellschaft, Leipzig; ed. Wilhelm Rust, 1871
  2. Jump up ^ MacDonogh, Giles. Frederick the Great: A Life in Deed and Letters. St. Martin's Griffin. New York. 2001. ISBN 0-312-27266-9
  3. Jump up ^ Variant versions of the concertos exisit, but they are not in Bach's hand and are difficult to date.
  4. Jump up ^
  5. Jump up ^ "Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3". Classical Music for Pleasure. Archived from the original on 20 January 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  6. Jump up ^ Christoph Wolff: Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician (WW Norton, New York, 2000).
  7. Jump up ^ Besseler's preface to the Neue Bach-Ausgabe edition of the Brandenburg Concertos is reprinted with a translation in Bärenreiter's Study Score of the Six Brandenburg Concertos (Bärenreiter TP9, 1988)
  8. Jump up ^ Malcolm Boyd, Bach: The Brandenburg Concertos (Cambridge UP, 1993), ISBN 0-521-38713-2 .
  9. Jump up ^ Eric Siblin, The Cello Suites: In Search of a Baroque Masterpiece, p. 266. Retrieved 9 June 2016
  10. Jump up ^ Marissen, M. (1992). "On linking Bach's F-major Sinfonia and his Hunt Cantata". Bach. 23 (2): 31–46. JSTOR 41634120. 
  11. Jump up ^ Schreiber as the trumpeter for concerto no.2
  12. Jump up ^ wikt:Phrygian cadence
  13. Jump up ^ The range of both recorder parts in the 4th Brandenburg concerto corresponds to that of the alto recorder
  14. Jump up ^ Steinberg, M. The Concerto: A Listener's Guide, p. 14, Oxford (1998) ISBN 0-19-513931-3
  15. Jump up ^ Hutchings, A. 1997. A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos, p. 26, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816708-3
  16. Jump up ^ This explanation is given by Nikolaus Harnoncourt in his interview about the sixth concerto, which features in the 2009 Deutsche Grammophon DVD Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Concertos.


  • Marissen, Michael (1999). The Social and Religious Designs of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 168. ISBN 0-691-00686-5. 

External links[edit]