Johann Sebastian Bach

Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047

    Description by James Reel

    Between 1719 and 1721, Bach assembled six concertos for Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg, either on commission or as a job application. The Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 may have been one of the last to be written, and it certainly seems like a special-occasion piece. It's a concerto featuring four prominent instruments -- trumpet, recorder, oboe, and violin -- against a foundation of strings and continuo. The writing is virtuosic and brilliant; the high trumpet part, in particular, brings many fine players to grief. The work basically follows the Italian concerto grosso pattern, punctuating the solo group's music with tutti outbursts for the strings, although here the soloists are often more integrated into the musical fabric than in the Italian model. The strongly rhythmic first movement, lacking a tempo indication, deploys the soloists both as members of the overall ensemble and as out-front players, in varying combinations. The orchestra introduces an energetic eight-bar theme, then, two at a time and separated by restatements of the opening melody, the soloists jump in with their own two-bar motif. From this point on, the soloists rarely recede completely, constantly toying with their short motif and picking up fragments of the initial theme as well. The trumpet retires from the plaintive Andante, leaving the other three soloists, with bare continuo accompaniment, to focus on a sighing phrase. One instrument's entrance overlaps another's last notes in a sort of counterpoint that, despite several efforts, never gets off the ground. Revamping a theme from the first movement, the Allegro assai takes counterpoint more seriously. In the earlier movements, Bach had passed a melody from one instrument to another, fully exploiting their contrasting colors. Now, in this final movement, the soloists each provide different voices in a full-fledged fugue, with the string orchestra merely reinforcing key moments. This fugue is no academic exercise; the music is bright and festive, clearly intended to show how a learned structure could be incorporated into popular entertainment at the margrave's court.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Andante
    3. Allegro assai

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Supraphon SU 42132
    2016 Archiv Produktion / DG Archiv 4795384
    2016 Musiques à la Chabotterie 605014
    2016 Erato 0190295974947
    2016 Christophorus CHR 77400
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95303BR
    2016 Hungaroton HCD 3278687
    2016 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4795983
    2016 Sonoma 1235408
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646019311
    2015 Erato 550562
    2015 Alpha ALPHA 300
    2015 K-Tel 136150
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    2015 Indesens INDE 075
    2014 Channel Classics CCSSA 35914
    2014 Berlin Classics 0300593BC
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    2014 Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13053
    2014 L'Oiseau-Lyre / Decca 4786753
    2014 Sony Classical 88843045052
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    2013 Archiv Produktion 002894791045AB55
    2013 Klanglogo KL 1502
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    2012 Naxos 8501061
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    2012 Music & Arts MA 1225
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