Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, like his ‘goldberg’ Variations, have become one of the most famous and popular collections of instrumental music. they are perhaps rivalled only by the first third of Vivaldi’s op.8, The Four Seasons. At the date of writing these notes, having entered ‘Bach Brandenburg concertos’ into a particular e-store’s search engine,?I was offered 463 ‘hits’. over the last fifty years, (since thurston dart’s 1954 recording, and Harnoncourt’s ‘first’ 1964 period- instrument recording) the desire to present the Brandenburgs in a newer, better and more historically ‘correct’ manner has increased rapidly. Brandenburg fever inspires great passion. And why not? these six concertos represent one of the glories of the instrumental repertoire.
Each ‘new’ version seems to require justification, particularly those on period instruments. too much ink has been spilled because of this, and more and more heated (and sometimes irrelevant) debate over historical and instrumentation issues ensues. the Brandenburg story should be very familiar to the Reader.1 these concertos were presented in a fair-copy full score, dated 24 march 1721, to the margrave of Brandenburg. Using this simple fact as a point of discussion, here is a small sample of the debate:- the manuscript is presumed to have been a gift to stimulate Bach’s advancement with the margrave. there is no acknowledgement of receipt or thanks whatsoever from the margrave. the ‘job application’ seems thus to have failed. the manuscript remained in the margrave’s library, unloved and unplayed.