J S Bach is the best known composer from the Baroque period. His prolific output includes works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo keyboard, 300+ cantatas, concertos, and the mighty St. Matthew Passion. Many of the pieces are familiar, others much less so. During his life he held a number of posts as organist and musical director. In 1722, when St. Thomas Church in Leipzig needed a new musical director and organist they chose Telemann, the most highly regarded composer in Germany at that time, but he did not wanting to relocate to the city. The church officials were disappointed that they then had to make-do with their second choice - Bach; and were never very enthusiastic about the music he composed for the church! Some people are just difficult to please.
The Davis High School period instrument Baroque Ensemble, played several of Bach's best known pieces on tour in Austria and Italy in 2017:
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3:
This concerto is unusual in that it is scored for 3 violins, 3 violas, 3 cellos, bass and keyboard. Bach composed the set of 6 concertos for the Margrave of Brandenburg (near Berlin) c.1720 as a gift in the hope that the he would employ him as court composer. The Margrave never responded, and the score sat on a library shelf until discovered in the 19thc. The concertos were eventually published in 1850 presumably never having been performed.
Violin Concerto, BWV 1041:
The concerto was recorded in Vivaldi's church in Venice. Federico, cellist in the esteemed Venice Baroque Orchestra came to the rescue with a clothes peg to secure the score at the end of the slow movement. The soloist is Sue Bin Park.
Air on a G String, from Orchestral Suite No. 3:
One of Bach's lesser known pieces is the light-hearted secular 'Peasant Cantata' composed towards the end of his life. The two characters of the cantata, a farmer and his wife, exchange jokes and celebrate the fact that the new Lord of the Manor has supplied beer. The farmer complains about the tax collector, who is ready to impose a new tax just as the farmer is at last free of his debts; but it all ends happily. The most remarkable thing about the cantata is that it includes Bach's exuberant and unexpected arrangement of La Follia:
Coffee Cantata Unlike many composers during the Baroque period, Bach did not compose the music for an opera. The closest he came was the miniature comic opera-like 'Coffee Cantata'. In Germany coffee was a popular drink for men and women, unlike most of the rest of Europe where men drank coffee, and women drank tea. In the cantata, which was first performed in Zimmermann's coffee house in Leipzig, the father, frustrated by the inattentive behavior of his daughter tells her to stop drinking coffee; she pleads with him saying she loves coffee too much to stop. Her father then threatens to take away her meals, privileges, and clothes, but she doesn't seem to care. When her father threatens to prevent her from marrying if she fails to give up coffee, she has a change of heart and thanks him for offering to find her a husband. However, the daughter tells her potential suitors that they must let her drink coffee if they want to marry her. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nifUBDgPhl4
Next Week –
18thc. Music in Germany - 2