Harpsichord Concerto V in F Minor for Violin, Viola, and Continuo, by J. S. Bach 1738 Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

I’ve been in love with the BWV 1056 for a number of years now. Being able to break it down theoretically through music analysis and then looking at the piece in its historical context has truly deepened my appreciation for this piece and, consequently, for keyboard concertos on a larger scale, along with a stronger desire to touch a harpsichord. I hope this paper portrays my love of this piece and how it has enriched my growing relationship with Bach and his repertoire (especially keyboard pieces) together with an understanding of Baroque performance practice so that I may come closer to the kind of proper technique Bach’s pieces insist on using.

Zimmerman’s Café.
As the spread of the popularity of coffee spread through Europe, the coffeehouse was quick to follow and rocketed throughout Europe, fueling the intellectual life of metropolitan cities and giving fire to the sharing of musical styles and artistic interests and philosophies. Part One

Dear Father,
We didn’t have a chance to converse before I left for my journey to Berlin.
As you know I decided to leave behind my education as a lawyer and pursue that of our family and my passion: music. I’ve accepted a position with this dude. I also wanted to I wanted to tell you about my visit there.

AS you have taught me to be inquisitive and to ask questions regardless of class,

Part Two
Through Bach’s “superhuman technical craftsmanship” (Bukofzer), he achieved a very refined realization of the Baroque style of music. Baroque music has a certain kind of character and quality that can be broken down into an analysis of terms and techniques of which there are many. Perhaps the best way to look at the BWV 1056 from this view is to look at both Baroque qualities within the composition and in performance. First a general analysis and then a segway into Baroque qualities. “Behind the traits that mark music as baroque, then, are their reason for being: the passions, or as they were more often called then, the affections” (Palisca). It is important to establish that the very first thing to ask when listening to or analyzing the BWV 1056 or any Baroque music is “how are my affections being moved by this piece?” Although it isn’t entirely correct to assume the “affections” being referred to are also the emotions, for sake of simplicity, we will refer to the affections as emotions in the context of this paper, and briefly discuss how each of the Baroque qualities of this piece moves the emotions. The genre of the piece is solo concerto, specifically for keyboard.

Thus it has three movements with the varied tempos of fast, slow, fast; or Allegro, Largo, and then a fabulous Presto. This is especially important when understanding the piece for performance, as, according to Donington’s book on performance practice: ‘The most important element in performing baroque music is tempo.” Why is this? It creates contrast, of course, and through contrast a general evolution of moving the affections via something kinda fast, something kinda slow, and then something fast again; and maybe one or a few of those with a nice dancelike triple meter. Next to key, tempo truly sets up a piece, or a section of a piece, in terms of performance, genre, style and what general affections will be moved: the basic binary of joy and melancholy.

Yet, in the scope of Baroque performance, we have a striking need to play all the ornamentation and detailed style of Baroque with correct nuance and articulation, and to be able to hear all of it too. This is why these movements of this piece, although Allegro, Largo, and Presto; are performed by the Seattle Baroque Orchestra not too fast, not too slow, and not too, too fast. Matter of fact, in listening to the recording, the tempos of each movement seem to actually be relatively quite near each other compared to the difference of what I expect, and the perception of fast, slow, fast is partly due to how its played and how I perceive it. I found this quite interesting. “The most valuable working rule for baroque tempos is not to take the fast movements too fast or the slow movements too slow” (Donington, 28).

“…the outer movements of BWV 1056 are closely related in terms of dimension, form, and content were clearly conceived as complementary…” (Dirksen, 29).

The first and third movements are in a basic ritornello form with ritornello and tutti alternating. Yet the first movement’s form isn’t as precise in ritornello form as the third, it’s more of a call and response dialogue. The third movement is more of a strict ritornello form, four solo episodes framed by five ritornello sections.

The Largo, movement two, is akin to a de capo aria, ABA’ (with the harpsichord soloing of course), so much so that the melody glides along, smooth and connected, riding over a minimal continuo, very much like a singing voice in an aria. Really, this movement could easily be transcribed to voice or another solo instrument with the continuo pieces the harpsichord fills in with the left hand being given to another continuo instrument, such as a cello. Throughout the piece, a number of Baroque techniques resound. Perhaps the most basic technique is the use of continuo. The music for the continuo, in Bach fashion of blending technique, is a healthy mix of basso continuo and style luthe

Staccato, Legato, and Articulation

“By incisive articulation I mean using crisp accents and sharp attacks rather than explosive accents or massive attacks” (Donington, 167).

Trills are used intentionally. However, they aren’t just used to extend a note’s duration! Bach uses carefully placed trills within the piece to heighten harmonic intensification during peak moments of musical ideas, such as at measures <>, and also uses them to add Baroque flavor to specific cadence, such as at measure <>. Indeed, trills may have been used at one time to extend the duration of notes, but as they continued to be used in composition there were many more reasons to use a trill: “No ornament has had a more varied or interesting history [than the trill]; but much of its complication disappears when it is understood that the trill has not one main function to perform, but two. One is melodic and rhythmic decoration and coloration; the other is harmonic modification and intensification” (Donington, 125).

Dynamic Contrasts – swelling of sound
Echos and Humps
Articulation of Notes

The performing forces are, of course, a solo instrument, such as the harpsichord, and a continuo consisting of.. Although Telemann & violin concerto stuff

It should be noted at this point, in order to emphasize the historical importance of the BWV 1056, just how the keyboard concerto is diff

erent than other instrument solo concertos, which is something we can see directly in the score. The

harpsichord The use of the harpsichord in tutti and in ritornello passages. Doubling of continuo during ritro

“Today we view the keyboardist primarily as the continuo player in a Baroque ensemble. Thus it seems reasonable that the elevation of the keyboard player from accompanist to soloist would have raised the questions whether there should be a separate continuo part and how the latter should be realized when the soloist is otherwise occupied” (Schulenberg, 30).

Matter of fact it was Bach’s development of the BWV 1056 and its family of compositions that had a tremendous impact on the development of the keyboard concerto as a genre. I would speculate that Bach used his keyboard concertos from that time, the BWV 1050-1057 during the 1730’s, in order to test different harpsichord arrangements to discover their sonic properties. For example, if the main continuo instrument is pulled out of the continuo and made the featured soloist, how does one compensate for this in the continuo? Bach used the BWV 1052-1059 to test out different combinations of performing forces, from using the left hand of the solo harpsichord to maintain the continuo to having a second dedicated harpsichord. Of course, he wasn’t the only one to be testing these waters at the time. His son Carl Emmanuel was, Handel, as well as a handful of other composers. Indeed, it was time for the harpsichord, and by association the other keyboard instruments, to come out of the role of underdog and be the hero of the show.

“But Bach’s concertos, especially BWV 1052-1059, demonstrate how technical refinement and new idiomatic conception of the solo part could provide the basis for a genre that held promise of a great future” (Wolff, 365).

“The role of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) and his sons in the development of the keyboard concerto has long been recognized” (Schulenberg, 29).

“The harpsichord concertos BWV 1052-59 reflect not only the emerging solo role of the harpsichord but also the early evolution of the keyboard concerto. This development, transmitted by Bach’s sons Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian, helped shape a new genre that was fully realized in the keyboard concertos of Mozart and Beethoven” (Galloway).

So, just how are my affections being moved, and what does this piece mean to me on a meaningful level? I did my best to convey this through the fictional letter I wrote above. Yet, now that I have more language, I can hopefully be more specific in this context. The first movement

Through historical research, trying to understand this piece through the context of performance and actual composition; to theoretical analysis of the piece in order to discover the qualities of the piece that make it both Baroque and unique; a much more comprehensive understanding of the piece has been woven together for me, along with a greater ability to realize the keyboard concerto in general. This also helps me understand the big question, “why am I writing this paper in the first place?” Which is, why do I like the Bach BWV 1056. It all comes down to me enjoying the piece, having my affections moved, and wondering why this is so, and then being able to communicate the nuances when I want. Why do I like this piece? And, by putting words to sounds and manipulations of them, I’m able to understand why and hopefully convey to others why I really love this piece. It’s truly a fun process and I hope you enjoyed this.

Leipzig Town Plan, 1720.

“Start at the bottom right-hand corner. Here you have the Vestung Pleissen-burg, built as a fortification. Burg means fortress, and the Pleisse is the river on which Leipzig sits. A little to the left is the Thomaskirche; just on the right of it, the Thomasschule. Bach looked out over the “moat” to the Promenade; he also had ready access through the little Thomas Gate. Moving upwards from the Thomaskirche we find the Market Place in the center, with the Town Hall. To the left is the Cather Strasse with Zimmermann’s Coffee House. Carrying on upwards and slightly right from the Market is Grimma Street leading to the Grimma Gate. To the left of it is the Nikolaikirche. Outside the Grimma gate was a garden in which Bach’s Collegium Musicum played in summer” (Sartorius).

Zimmermann’s Café.
“On the left is the architectural drawing of the “with much improvement rebuilt Thomas School Anno 1732”. Bach’s living conditions thereafter were much improved! On the right is “a part of the Cather(ine) Street”. Zimmermann’s Café which hosted Bach’s Collegium Musicum was located in the center building labeled ‘2’” (Sartorius).

Coffee garden in Leipzig.
“Leipzig’s eight Coffee Shops played an important role in the social and musical life of the city. We end this brief tour of Bach’s Leipzig with an idealized view of Richter’s Coffee garden which nonetheless captures the lively cultured atmosphere of the city in 1736 when this frontispiece to the Song Collection ‘The Singing Muse by the Pleisse’ was published. Note the variety of activities: conversation, spinet-playing, cards, and yes, bottom right – snooker! Elegant, cultured, sophisticated, commercially prosperous, cosmopolitan… this was the city in which Bach and his family were fortunate in spending twenty-seven years” (Sartorius).

Works Cited

Bach, Johann S. BACH, J.S.: Harpsichord Concertos – BWV 1052, 1053, 1055, 1056. Schenkman, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Matthews. Centaur, n.d. Naxos Music Library. Web. 8 Oct. 2012. <http://elmhurst.naxosmusiclibrary.com.proxy.elmhurst.edu/streamw.asp?ver=2.0&s=10727%2Felmhurst08%2F242152 >. Very good modern recording of the BWV 1056 concerto using a harpsichord and period instruments.

Bach, Johann Sebastian. Clavier-Concert V (Harpsichord Concerto No. 5), BWV 1056. University Music Editions (collection). Bach Gesellschaft Edition, Leipzig, 1926. http://erato.uvt.nl/files/imglnks/usimg/4/4b/IMSLP02260-Bach_-_BGA_-_BWV_1056.pdf . This is the score I used to analyze. It’s missing some ornamental material played by the harpsichordist, though considering the period that’s expected, but other than that this score works well.

Bach, Johann Sebastian. Harpsichord Concerto No.5 in F minor, BWV 1056. IMSLP Petrucci Music Library. Leipzig: Composer’s manuscript, n.d. (ca.1738). http://petrucci.mus.auth.gr/imglnks/usimg/a/a1/IMSLP99685-PMLP110821-BWV_1056__D_B_Mus._ms._Bach_P_234_.pdf

Bukofzer , Manfred. Music in the Baroque Era: From Monteverdi to Bach. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1947. Print. A general book on music in the Baroque Era. Great overview. Period history.

David, Hans T., and Arthur Mendel. The Bach Reader: A Life of Johann Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents. New York: W. W. Norton, 1966. 168-72. Print. Insight into Bach’s personal life during the years of the composition of BWV 1056.

Dirksen, Peiter. J. S. Bach’s Concerted Ensemble Music, the Concerto. Edited by Gregory Butler. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2008. 21-54. Print. Fantastic analysis of the BWV 1056. Butler also argues that the 1056 was taken from a lost violin concerto and shows evidence. However, note that Zohn below partially refutes this and shows evidence of 1056/2 taken from Telemann.

Donington, Robert. Baroque Music: Style and Performance: A Handbook. New York: Norton, 1982. Print. Good source on Baroque performance technique.

Galloway, Robert James. “From Continuo To Obbligato Cembalo: A Study Of The Changing Role Of The Harpsichord In J.S. Bach’s Harpsichord Concertos And Solo Sonatas With Obbligato Cembalo.” (1996): RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. The development of the harpsichord from continuo to obbligato, from a rhythm section instrument to a solo one.

Holborn, Hajo. A History of Modern Germany: 1648-1840. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1964. Print. History of Germany, specifically Leipzig.

“J.S. Bach: Timeline of His Life.” J.S. Bach: Timeline of His Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <http://www.jsbach.org/timeline.html>. Timeline of Bach’s life.

Le Huray, Peter. “Chapters 1 & 2.” Authenticity in Performance: Eighteenth-century Case Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. 1-23. Print. Contains good material on the techniques of playing a Bach piece during
period times as well as modern times. Fingering, etc.

Münch, Christoph. “Johann Sebastian Bach and Dresden: On the Path of the Master.” Johann Sebastian Bach and Dresden. Landeshauptstadt Dresden, 22 Jan. 2006. Web. 11 Dec. 2012. <http://www.dresden.de/en/02/press_service/press_texts_in_various_languages/english/c_04_johann_sebastian_bach_and_dresden.php >. Information on Bach’s trip to Dresden in May of 1738.

Palisca, Claude V. Baroque Music. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968. 3-4. Print.

Pendergrast, Mark. “Coffee Colonizes the World.” Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York, NY: Basic, 1999. 11. Print.

Platen, Emil and Iain Fenlon. “Collegium musicum.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 8 Dec. 2012. <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/40623>. Good article on the various forms and locations of various collegiums of music.

Sartorius, Michael. “Bach’s Leipzig in Pictures.” Bach’s Leipzig in Pictures. Baroque Music Pages, n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2012. Map of Leipzig in 1720 along with some wonderful pictures of woodcuts showing architecture from that time.

Sartorius, Michael. Johann Sebastian Bach: A Detailed Informative Biography. Michael Sartorius, 2009. Web.

Schulenberg, David. “Expression and Authenticity in the Harpsichord Music of J.S. Bach.” The Journal of Musicology , Vol. 8, No. 4. University of California Press. (Autumn, 1990), pp. 449-476.

Schulenberg, David. “J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, And The Invention Of The Concerto For Keyboard And Strings.” Early Keyboard Journal 25-26.(2010): 29.
RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.

Schwalbach, Burkhard. “Eighteenth-century Coffee-House Culture: A New Context for Bach’s Music?” Understanding Bach 3 (2008): 105-08. Bach Network UK. Bach Network UK, 2008. Web. 6 Dec. 2012.

Wolff, Christoph. “Johann Sebastian Bach.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/40023pg10>. Good bio on Bach.

Wolff, Christoph. “Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/40023pg12>.

Wolff, Christoph. “Bach’s Leipzig Chamber Music & Toward a Definition of the Last Period of Bach’s Work”. Bach: Essays on His Life and Music. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1991. 223-367. Print.

Wolff, Christoph. “Special Engagements: The 1730s.” Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. 351-65. Print. Amazing account on Bach with detailed timetables of performances at Zimmermann’s coffeehouse as well as the culture within.

Zaslaw, Neal. The Classical Era: From the 1740s to the End of the 18th Century. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1989. Print. Pieces highlight the shift in music happening in the 1740s, when this keyboard concerto was composed.

Zimmermann’s Coffeehouse. Zimmermann’€s Coffeehouse. Baroque Chamber Ensemble, 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

Zohn, Steven, (Author), and Ian, (Asst.) Payne. “Bach, Telemann, And The Process Of Transformative Imitation In BWV 1056/2 (156/1).” The Journal Of

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