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Bach Keyboard Concertos - BWV1052, BWV1053 & BWV1062 - Concert 1

Bach Keyboard Concertos - BWV1052, BWV1053 & BWV1062 - Concert 1

Valletta Baroque Festival 2024


Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

Michael Laus - director, piano

Maria Elena Farrugia - piano

Christine Zerafa - piano


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Bach Keyboard Concertos

Solo Concerto 1 -  No.1 in D minor BWV 1052

Michael Laus

Solo Concerto 2 — No.2 in E major BWV 1053

Christine Zerafa

Double Concerto  — C minor BWV1062

Maria-Elena Farrugia  & Christine Zerafa

Programme Notes



Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is generally acknowledged as the originator of the keyboard concerto. In all, he wrote fifteen works which have prominent solo parts for the keyboard. Seven of these concertos are for a single keyboard (BWV 1052-1058), three are for two keyboards (BWV 1060-1062), two for three keyboards (BWV 1063 – 1064) and one for four keyboards (BWV 1065). BWV 1057, which is an arrangement of the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto with solo violin part transcribed for keyboard by Bach himself, also includes solo parts for two recorders. In addition, he composed two other concertos for solo keyboard, violin and flute. These are BWV 1044 and the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, BWV 1050.2, the latter being the very first work to include a solo keyboard part. The tutti or ripieno sections of all the concertos consist of first and second violins, violas, and a bass part performed by cellos and double basses. The term Clavier, by which Bach denoted the keyboard parts, is taken to stand for harpsichord in these cases, since the clavichord, which was the other instrument for which the term Clavier was applied, was far too weak in tone to compete with a string section, even if the latter consisted of one player per part. It is not excluded, however, that some of these concertos may have been performed on the organ. During the nineteenth century, it became common practice to perform these works on the piano, and this practice has subsisted up to the present day.

The concertos for one keyboard were written In 1738 or 1739, when Bach was director of church music in Leipzig, and were intended as a single series, the only such collection of works in Bach’s output apart from the six Brandenburg Concertos. Although the circumstances which led to the composition of these works have never been ascertained, it is probable that Bach composed them for performances at the Café Zimmermann in Leipzig, where he gave weekly concerts as director of the Collegium Musicum. It is also probable that, with the sole exception of BWV 1061, all the keyboard parts of all the concertos were originally written for violin, with Bach himself transcribing the violin solo part for keyboard. For two of the solo concertos, BWV 1054 and BWV 1058, this is a certainty as these are transcriptions of Bach’s two extant violin concertos, while BWV 1062 for two keyboards derives from the D minor Concerto for Two Violins. We do not have the original versions of the other concertos, but internal evidence, mainly the abundance of violin-like figuration in the solo keyboard parts, point to their being transcriptions of violin concertos which have been lost. As was common practice during the eighteenth century, the soloist played continuously, even during the tutti sections. All the concertos consist of three movements, fast-slow-fast.

Concerto no. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052

I Allegro; II Adagio; III Allegro

All three movements of this work originate from two cantatas which Bach had written previously, namely Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal in das reich Gottes eingehen (1726) and Ich habe meine Zuversicht (1728), in both of which the organ featured as a soloist. In their turn these cantata movements probably had their origins in a now lost violin concerto. In fact, several musicians, starting from Ferdinand David in 1873, have attempted to reconstruct the solo violin part from the organ and harpsichord versions. One of Bach’s greatest and most virtuosic concertos, its outer movements are indebted to Vivaldi’s concertos, especially in the unison openings of all three movements. The two outer movements are in ABA form, while the middle movement presents an ostinato, a repeated figure in the bass over which the keyboard presents an extended and ornate melody. 

Concerto no. 2 in E major, BWV 1053

I (Allegro); II Siciliano; III Allegro

An earlier version for organ of all three movements of this concerto exists, in the cantatas Gott soll allein mein Herz haben and Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen, both written in 1726. In this concerto, Bach altered the original by making the texture of all the string parts lighter, thereby giving more prominence to both the treble and bass parts of the keyboard. The middle movement is a siciliano, a dance movement in compound quadruple time evoking a pastoral mood, in which dotted rhythms are prevalent.

Concerto for Two Keyboards in C minor, BWV 1062

I (Allegro); II Andante; III Allegro assai

This concerto is a transcription of the Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043, one of the most successful and frequently performed of Bach’s works. For the transcription, Bach transposed the work a tone lower because of the constraints of the harpsichord’s register, as he had done with similar transcriptions. The transcription is very faithful to the original violin version, the only important addition being frequent elaboration of the bass line by the keyboards’ left hand parts. The middle movement features one of the most beautiful and memorable of Bach’s melodies. 

Programme notes by Michael Laus

18 January 2024
Teatru Manoel, Valletta
€20 - €50
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Valletta Baroque Festival 2024

Bach Keyboard Concertos - BWV1052, BWV1053 & BWV1062 - Concert 1

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