Johann Sebastian Bach

Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046

    Description by John Keillor

    The Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major, BWV 1046, is the first of six great concertos which, taken in combination, add up the most complex and artistically successful failed job application in recorded history. They were written around 1721 and dedicated to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg in March of the same year. Bach's position at Cöthen was becoming less desirable to him; his wife had died in 1720 while Bach accompanied his employer, Prince Leopold of Anthalt-Cöthen, to Carlsbad. The prince was also reallocating funds from music to his palace guard, no doubt because the prince's new wife was not a music lover.

    Christian Ludwig probably heard Bach perform in 1719, or perhaps earlier at the spas in Carlsbad, where Prince Leopold would have Bach accompany him. Bach sent a beautifully rendered score of the concertos to the Margrave in 1721, suspecting that the royal might be interested in giving him a job, but there is no known response to Bach's political overture.

    The first concerto is, like all of Bach's concertos, indebted to the methods of the Italians. Vivaldi was particularly attractive to the German composer, who eagerly copied out Vivaldi's scores in order to understand his use of contrast, rhythmic propulsion, and orchestration. The Brandenburg Concertos were not as unusual as was once thought; Italian composers created concertos for widely varying combinations of instruments, and Bach's shifting textures have their parallels in works by other composers. But the handling of the Italian concerto material went unmatched throughout the Baroque era. One unique, perhaps non-Italian idea in the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 is Bach's use of hunting horns. The concerto also calls for three oboes and a bassoon, as well as continuo strings and the violino piccolo. The sound of the horns stands out, but the composer manages to make them blend into the ensemble through the use of multiple winds.

    Though the first movement does not have a tempo marking, performances of the four-movement work are about 20 minutes in duration. Each movement has a brisk pace and extraordinary counterpoint that inventively shades and blurs the contrast between the small concertino group and the tutti ensemble. Along with the horn, the violino piccolo seems to have been included in order to draw more attention to the innovative qualities of the music. The Brandenburg Concertos contain some of Bach's most brilliant counterpoint, and the attention-grabbing orchestration of the first concerto has not diminished the work's value at all. It is among Bach's best works.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Adagio
    3. Allegro
    4. Menuetto - Trio 1 - Polacca - Trio 2

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 CPO 555158
    2018 Linn CKR 430
    2018 Arcana A 452
    2018 Accent ACC 24352
    2018 Grand Piano GP 77778
    2017 Supraphon SU 42132
    2017 Decca 4832158
    2017 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 16010
    2016 Archiv Produktion 4795384
    2016 Musiques à la Chabotterie 605014
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88875169792
    2016 Christophorus CHR 77400
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95303BR
    2016 Hungaroton HCD 3278687
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795983
    2016 Naxos 8578320-21
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646019311
    2015 Erato 550562
    2015 Alpha ALPHA 300
    2015 K-Tel 136150
    2015 Tacet TACET 101BDA
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795229
    2014 Channel Classics CCSSA 35914
    2014 Berlin Classics 0300593BC
    2014 Smekkleysa SMC 3
    2014 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186205
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002127
    2014 Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13053
    2014 L'Oiseau-Lyre / Decca 4786753
    2014 Sony Classical 88843045052
    2013 Archiv Produktion 002894791045AB55
    2013 Teldec 690116
    2013 Naïve NC 40030
    2013 Linn / Linn Records CKD 430
    2013 Berlin Classics 0300534BC
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099970490
    2012 ABC Classics ABC 4761923
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 4783384
    2012 Tafelmusik Media TMK 1004CD2
    2012 ZYX Music CLA 101382
    2012 Analekta ANLCD 299967
    2012 Hänssler Classic CD 94615
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099963565
    2012 Naxos 8501061
    2012 Sony Classical 88725463862
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2012 ZYX Music CLABOX 007
    2012 Music & Arts MA 1225
    2012 Concerto / Zebralution
    2011 Naïve OP 30530
    2011 Newton Classics 8802075
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    1997 Michele Audio 1001
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    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 453001
    1996 Teldec 97903
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    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 4455782
    1996 Hyperion 22001
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    1996 Delos 3185
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    1996 Par Excellence/St. Clair 24442
    1995 Koch 7705
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    1995 Madacy 3628
    1995 Curb 78012
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    1995 Seraphim UK 68516
    1995 Sony Classical 66289
    1995 Classical Creations 820502
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    1995 Haenssler 98927
    1995 ZYX Music 4032
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    1995 Art of Classics 885902
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    1994 Sony Classical Essential Classics 53525
    1994 Teldec 95980
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    1994 ASV 6074
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    1994 Supraphon 1875
    1994 ESS.A.Y. 1037
    1993 Teldec 77611
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    1993 Belart/Karussell 450030
    1993 Laserlight 14131
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