All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Concerto for three harpsichords in D minor

BWV 1063 performed by Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Siebe Henstra, Menno van Delft and the Netherlands Bach Society
Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam

"This concerto is about a conversation between eight individuals."

Playing with timbres

A trill for three right hands: of course that can never be exactly together.

In this Concerto in D minor, Bach plays with monophony and polyphony. It is a solo concerto, but then for three harpsichords. Sometimes all the instruments play the same melody, but then they go off on their own again. And even when they follow their own path, there are still always lines played by two, three or four hands together. When the harpsichordists are actually all playing something different, their instruments still sound like one big combined instrument.

In the middle movement, Lars Ulrik Mortensen has the harpsichordists switch to their lute register, which makes their instruments sound like lutes or mandolins. Combined with the rippling tempo prescribed by Bach (alla siciliana), they bring to mind strumming gondoliers. According to the eighteenth-century music theorist Johann Mattheson, a siciliana was thus a song ‘à la barquerole’ (i.e. boat music). Here, too, Bach plays with timbre. In the chorus, the harpsichordists all play exactly the same, yet you still hear that they are three instruments and not just one.

Bach would not be Bach if there was no hint of a fugue anywhere, and this expectation is met in the final movement. Independence is a main characteristic of a fugue. And indeed it is only in this final section that the second and third harpsichordists really get their own solo. However, in the closing bars of the concerto, Bach still makes the three musicians play exactly the same notes again. Almost in jest, there is even one long trill for the three right hands simultaneously – which of course can never be exactly together.


Concerto for three harpsichords in D minor

orchestral work (concerto)

around 1735-1745


Special notes
This was probably Bach’s arrangement of an earlier concerto, although we do not know exactly which instrument it was written for.

Cast & Crew

release date 8 February 2019
recording date 15 October 2017
location Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam
Direction Lars Ulrik Mortensen
HARPSICHORDISTS Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Siebe Henstra, Menno van Delft
violin 1 Shunske Sato
violin 2 Anneke van der Haaften
viola Deirdre Dowling
Cello Lucia Swarts
double bass James Munro
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, Martin Struijf, Thijs Struick
Lights Zen Bloot
set technique Dennis Hoek
Data handling Jesper Blok
project manager NEP Peter Ribbens
Interview Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
Producer concert Marco Meijdam
producer film Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts




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