All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Harpsichord concerto in A major

BWV 1055 performed by Francesco Corti and the Netherlands Bach Society
Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam

"It's not a particularly difficult piece, but it's great fun."

Reflection of an ideal

The second movement of this concerto is an operatic lamento.

It is actually remarkable that researchers know or suspect that Bach wrote earlier versions of nearly all his harpsichord concertos for another solo instrument. It is almost as though Bach consciously chose not to write a concerto directly for harpsichord. Maybe Bach regarded a composition more as an abstract ideal, of which the various versions were concrete reflections, each one highlighting a different aspect. A composition was therefore a virtually infinite source of musical potential.

The basis for this Harpsichord Concerto in A major, BWV 1055, was probably a concerto for oboe d’amore, as suggested by the key and the fact that it is only really the right hand of the harpsichord that plays concertante. Apart from Bach himself, listeners at the time it was written would probably not have known that the solo instrument was originally an oboe. And if you had not read this, you might not have suspected it either.

However, Bach enjoyed playing with the musical knowledge of his audience. Although we do not know whether he occasionally went to the opera (in Dresden for instance), some of his audience would certainly have known. In the second movement of this concerto, the chromatically descending bass line and the slow, rocking rhythm of the strings resemble a lamento from an Italian opera. The harpsichord part is almost vocal in character. Here, Bach uses strategic musical style features to evoke the suggestion in the listener’s mind of yet another version.

The unusual thing about this concerto, says harpsichordist Franceso Corti, is that it is the only harpsichord concerto by Bach to have a second continuo part, so it would certainly have been played by a second harpsichord as well.


Harpsichord Concerto in A major

orchestral work (concerto)

between 1733 and 1746


Special Notes
Probably an arrangement of a concerto written earlier by Bach for oboe d’amore

Cast & Crew

release date 3 November 2017
recording date 3 February 2017
location Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam
harpsichords Bruce Kennedy after Michael Mietke, 1989 and Geert Karman after J.H. Gräbner, 1774
conductor and harpsichordist Francesco Corti
violin Shunske Sato, Noyuri Hazama
viola Pieter Affourtit
Cello Lucia Swarts
double bass Hen Goldsobel
harpsichordist Siebe Henstra
director Lucas van Woerkum
assistant director Stijn Berkhouwer
music recording Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Jochem Timmerman, Rene Holbrugge, Kenneth Dirkzwager
Intern camera Klazina Westra
Lights Zen Bloot
Set technique Justin Mutsaers
Data handling Jesper Blok
project manager NEP Peter Ribbens
Producer concert Marco Meijdam
producer film Jessie Verbrugh
Interview Onno van Ameijde

Vocal Texts




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