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Bach Keyboard Concertos - BWV1054, BWV1055, BWV1056 & BWV1061- Concert 2

Bach Keyboard Concertos - BWV1054, BWV1055, BWV1056 & BWV1061- Concert 2

Valletta Baroque Festival 2024


Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

Michael Laus - director, piano

Francis Camilleri - piano

Joanne Camilleri - piano

Gisèle Grima - piano


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Bach Keyboard Concertos

Solo Concerto 1 -  No.3 in D major BWV 1054

Francis Camilleri 

Solo Concerto 2 — No.4 in A major BWV 1055

Joanne Camilleri

Solo Concerto 3 — No.5 in F minor BWV 1056

Gisèle Grima

Double Concerto  — C major BWV1061

Joanne Camilleri & Francis Camilleri

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. 3 in D major, BWV 1054

I (Allegro); II Adagio e piano sempre; III Allegro

This is a straightforward transcription of the Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042 (date of composition unknown). The keyboard version was transposed down a tone so that the top E, which featured frequently in the original, could be played as a D, which was the highest note on most harpsichords of the time. The first movement is in ABA form, while the middle movement is an aria for the keyboard accompanied by a ground bass. The last movement is in ritornello form, after the Vivaldi concerto model.

Concerto no. 4 in A major, BWV 1055

I Allegro; II Larghetto; III Allegro ma non tanto

The texture of the first movement of this concerto is unique, in that the keyboard part is complete in itself and the string parts are reduced to a mere accompaniment, to the extent that the soloist is in the forefront right from the opening ritornello. This has led many scholars to suppose that the movement originated as a piece for unaccompanied keyboard. As in BWV 1053, the second movement is a siciliano, while the last movement is a lively minuet.

Concerto no. 5 in F minor, BWV 1056

I (Allegro); II Largo; III Presto

The earlier versions of this work were a lost violin concerto in G minor for the outer movements, the sinfonia to the cantata Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe (1727 or 1729) for the middle movement, in which the solo part is played by an oboe, and Georg Philipp Telemann’s Flute Concerto in G major. The opening of the latter work’s second movement is identical to the first two bars of the Largo of Bach’s concerto, and this could have been a homage from Bach to his friend Telemann. Bach then takes the opening theme and develops it in his own style. In spite of the minor key, both outer movements have a playful character, with frequent echo effects.

Concerto for Two Keyboards in C major, BWV 1061

I (Allegro); II Adagio ovvero Largo; III Fuga

This concerto originated as a work for two keyboards without orchestra, and the string parts, which were added later, was probably not written by Bach himself, but by his son Wilhelm Friedmann. The strings remain completely silent in the middle movement, which is for the two soloists alone. The texture is antiphonal, with the two keyboards imitating each other throughout the work. The last movement is in fugato texture, the strings joining in only occasionally to reinforce the solo parts.


Programme notes by Michael Laus

19 January 2024
Teatru Manoel, Valletta
€20 - €50
Audience Level
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Valletta Baroque Festival 2024

Bach Keyboard Concertos - BWV1054, BWV1055, BWV1056 & BWV1061- Concert 2

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