The fourth Brandenburg Concerto by Bach is as good an example as any of Bach's ability to write virtuosic, technically-challenging pieces for the violin. I first, however, expose the listener to an excerpt from another piece, BWV 1026, a Fugue in G minor for violin and keyboard, a rather curious little work that is likely a fragment of something left behind. It is, for me, however, a rather arresting piece of music, and I think, reveals Bach's real gift for writing for the violin.
This little piece is heavy in the use of multiple stops, often in rhythmically-interesting places. The Fugue in G minor does not, however, employ every "trick" in the composer's toolbox. It is in, instead in the fourth Brandenburg, where we see beyond Bach's contrapuntal genius, and explore daring runs, chock full of oodles of notes, before later encountering fast bowing between the extremes of the instrument. Above all, Bach may be trying to tell us a story with these effects.
We know Bach was a violinist "with clear tone," according to his sons, but I am not certain he would have been the one to perform these types of pieces.
Bach's fourth Brandenburg Concerto, written for "echo flutes" and violin as soloists, has been interpreted by Philip Pickett as a type of contest piece for Apollo (represented by the violin player). We look in this episode specifically at the violin parts and listen to a number of interpretations.
- Musica Antiqua Köln - Brandenburg and Chamber Music Box Set
- English Concert - Trevor Pinnock 3CD Set
- Il Giardino Armonico - Brandenburg Re-issue
- Score for BWV 1026, Fugue in G minor
- Manuscript Score for BWV 1049
- Harnoncourt on BWV 1049
Bach's concerto also exists as a re-write for two recorders and harpsichord, likely for performance with the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig.