BWV 1065

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Concerto for four harpsichords in A minor

BWV 1065 performed by Siebe Henstra, Menno van Delft, Pieter-Jan Belder, Tineke Steenbrink and the Netherlands Bach Society
Ottone, Utrecht

"It's us who get the most fun out of it, playing it together."

JOS VAN VELDHOVEN’S 10 FAVOURITE WORKS

This week BWV 1065: More and better

A tribute to “our” Jos van Veldhoven: every Friday one of the 10 favourite works of Jos van Veldhoven, who is leaving the Netherlands Bach Society after 35 years as artistic director.

Jos van Veldhoven about his favourite Concerto for four harpsichords in A minor, BWV 1065: "As if four violin parts were not enough, Bach arranged Vivaldi’s music for eight hands on four harpsichords. It exudes the joy of playing. In his day, Bach may have played this piece with his sons or pupils. It is performed for the Netherlands Bach Society by four wonderful Dutch harpsichordists."

Everyone has their own specialism. Whereas Bach excelled on the keyboard, Vivaldi ruled on the violin. Even more importantly, Vivaldi was the composer par excellence of the solo concerto. His music travelled throughout Europe and all the way to Bach’s home. Johann Sebastian Bach arranged various Vivaldi concertos (sometimes thoroughly) from opus 3, 4 and 7, for organ and harpsichord. He used one of them – the Concerto in B minor from L’estro armonico (opus 3) for four violins and orchestra – more or less in its entirety. But of course he gave it an exciting twist, as in Bach’s version the soloists play harpsichords and B minor changed to A minor.

Unfortunately, we do not know how the Concert for four harpsichords in A minor originated, although we can hazard a guess. If it was ‘born’ around 1730, Bach could have arranged the concerto for (or improvised it in) the Zimmermannsches Kaffeehaus, where he led the Leipziger Collegium Musicum. And with no fewer than five harpsichords at home, it could also have been a family affair, with father Bach sharing the stage with three of his children.

It was most probably an exciting challenge to expand four single solo lines into four complete keyboard parts for two hands; from four strings to dozens of them. Bach’s extra notes often supplement those of Vivaldi, but where the accompaniment permits, he likes to use them in dialogue. This is very clear in the closing phase of the first movement, as repeated chords explode in Bach’s hands in a crisscross of melodic motifs. The most impressive movement – and the most faithful to the original – is the second, which is full of broken chords that gain incredible power and richness when transposed from violin to harpsichord.


BWV
1065

Title
Concerto in A Minor

Genre
orchestral work (harpsichord concerto)

Year
around 1730

City
Leipzig

Special notes
Arrangement of Vivaldi’s Concerto in B minor, opus 3 no. 10.

Cast & Crew

Release date 7 October 2016
Recording date 16 April 2016
Location Ottone, Utrecht
Haprsichordists Siebe Henstra, Menno van Delft, Pieter-Jan Belder, Tineke Steenbrink
Violin 1 Shunske Sato
Violin 2 Sayuri Yamagata
Viola Staas Swierstra
Cello Lucia Swarts
Double Bass Margaret Urquhart
FILM DIRECTOR AND EDITOR Lucas van Woerkum
MUSIC RECORDING PRODUCERS Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
Music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Maarten van Rossem, Robert Berger, Richard Spierings
Camera assistant Luuk Walschout
Gaffer Zen Bloot
Concert producer Imke Deters
producer Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts

Original

Translation

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