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Bach Keyboard Concertos - BWV1057, BWV1058 & BWV1060 - Concert 3

Bach Keyboard Concertos - BWV1057, BWV1058 & BWV1060 - Concert 3

Valletta Baroque Festival 2024


Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

Michael Laus - director, piano

Caroline Calleja - piano

Joanne Camilleri - piano

Charlene Farrugia - piano


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Bach Keyboard Concertos

Concert 3 

Solo Concerto 1 -  No.6 in F major BWV 1057

Caroline Calleja

Solo Concerto 2 — No.7 in G minor BWV 1058

Charlene Farrugia

Double Concerto  — C minor BWV1060

Joanne Camilleri & Caroline Calleja

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. 6 in F major, BWV 1057 I (Allegro); II Andante; III Allegro assai

This is an arrangement of the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, with the solo violin part assigned to the keyboard. Exceptionally, Bach retains the other two soloists, which are two recorders (played by two modern flutes in this performance), for the keyboard version., although Bach assigns some of their original passage work in the middle movement to the keyboard player. The first movement features a prominent hemiola, or cross rhythm, passage. The last movement starts with a fugato and retains a contrapuntal texture throughout.

Concerto no. 7 in G minor, BWV 1058 I (Allegro); II Andante; III Allegro assai

This is a transcription of the Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041. As in BWV 1054, Bach transposes the original a tone down because of the limitations of the harpsichord’s register. This work was probably the first of the series of keyboard concertos to be written and performed, and the string parts were left practically identical to the original version. This resulted in a faulty balance, the harpsichord’s tone not being strong enough to pass through the rich string texture. For this reason, this concerto works better when performed on a modern piano. The first movement is in the usual ritornello form, while the middle movement is based on an ostinato, over which the keyboard player plays an extended arioso. The last movement is in the style of a gigue, a lively dance in compound duple rhythm.

Concerto for Two Keyboards in C minor, BWV 1060

I Allegro; II Adagio; III Allegro

This work is believed to be an arrangement of a lost concerto for oboe and violin. It is one of Bach’s best works of this period, especially with regard to the way that the two keyboard instruments interact with each other and with the strings. Interestingly, the outer movements present a marked and consistent difference in the writing for the two soloists, in that the first keyboard part has more agility, while the second keyboard part features more cantabile passages. The two keyboards imitate each other in the melodic middle movement, which is similar in style to that of BWV 1062.

Programme notes by Michael Laus

20 January 2024
Teatru Manoel, Valletta
€10 - €50
Audience Level
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Valletta Baroque Festival 2024

Bach Keyboard Concertos - BWV1057, BWV1058 & BWV1060 - Concert 3

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