MuseData: Johann Sebastian Bach

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Brandenburg Concertos

Bach's six Brandenburg Concertos are demonstrations par excellence of both virtuosity and interplay between most of instruments available to Bach's time in Thuringia, where Bach was raised and held all his posts prior to moving to Leipzig in 1723. He composed them while living in Cöthen, which offered few of these resources but may have prompted Bach to show how many different combinations of sounds could be found in the broader palette of sonorities in use within a day's travel from the court.

Work No. Catalogue No. Genre / Instruments Key Score (PDF) Concordances
No. 1 BWV 1046 Concerto / 2 Hn, Ob, Bn; VPiccolo, 2V, Va, Vc, Vne Gr, Cem F Major BWV 1046/3 = BWV 207a/1. BWV 1046/7 = BWV 207a/5a.
No. 1a BWV 1046a Concerto / 2 Hn, 3 Ob, Bn; 2V, Va, Vc, Cem F Major BWV 1046a/1 = BWV 52/1
No. 2 BWV 1047 Concerto / Tr, Rec, Ob, Vn; 2V, Va, Vc, Vne, Cem F Major
No. 3 BWV 1048 Concerto / 3V, 3Va, 3Vc, Vne, Cem G Major BWV 1048/1 = BWV 174/1
No. 4 BWV 1049 Concerto / VPr, Rec, 2Vn, Va, Vc, Vne, Cem G Major BWV 1049 = BWV 1057
No. 5 BWV 1050 Concerto / Fl, VPr, Cem concertato; V, Va, Vc, Vne, Cem D Major
No. 5a BWV 1050a Concerto / Fl, VPr, Cem concertato; V, Va, Vne D Major
No. 6 BWV 1051 Concerto / 2Va, 2Va da gamba, Vc, Vne, Cem B Major

Well-tempered Clavier

Two- and Three-part Inventions

J. S. Bach: Invention No. 4 [BWV 775] from the holograph manuscript, Bach P 610, Berlin, Deutsche Staatsbibliothek.

Bach's two-part inventions (BWV 772-786) constituted one set of several that J. S. Bach composed for his gifted son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784). The term invention is traced to the solo violin pieces Op. 10 (1713) by Francesco Antonio Bonporti (1672-1749), a Trentine composer. Bach uses the Latin title Inventio, reminding us of his command of the language, which he taught in at least one of his posts in addition to teaching music. Each three-voice work that follows in the same collection was likewise called a Sinfonia.

Work No. Catalogue No. Genre / Instrument Key Score
No. 1 BWV 772 Invention / harpsichord C Major
No. 1a BWV 772a Invention / harpsichord C Major
No. 2 BWV 773 Invention / harpsichord C Minor
No. 3 BWV 774 Invention / harpsichord D Major
No. 4 BWV 775 Invention / harpsichord D Minor
No. 5 BWV 776 Invention / harpsichord E Major
No. 6 BWV 777 Invention / harpsichord E Major
No. 7 BWV 778 Invention / harpsichord E Minor
No. 8 BWV 779 Invention / harpsichord F Major
No. 9 BWV 780 Invention / harpsichord F Minor
No. 10 BWV 781 Invention / harpsichord G Major
No. 11 BWV 782 Invention / harpsichord G Minor
No. 12 BWV 783 Invention / harpsichord A Major
No. 13 BWV 784 Invention / harpsichord A Minor
No. 14 BWV 785 Invention / harpsichord Bb Major
No. 15 BWV 786 Invention / harpsichord B Minor

The harmonic cycle that Bach has constructed in the collection as a whole foreshadows the tonally more complete cycles of the two sets of paired preludes and fugues called the Well-Tempered Clavier. They appeared in 1722 and 1744. It was not enough for young Friedemann to be able to play the pieces. He was being called to understand the cyclic possibilities that inhered in tonal relationships. This was a dominant focus in music theory of the time. Johann David Heinichen's Circle of Fifths was first formalized in 1711 and has remained the dominant scheme in Western music theory.

The three-part inventions, or sinfonie, follow the same cyclical organization in the aggregate. It has been suggested that the intended relationship between the inventions and sinfonias was to be performed in pairs, like the prelude-fugue sets of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Given their shared cycle of keys, Invention 1 might be followed by Sinfonia No. 1 and so forth.

Work No. Catalogue No. Genre / Instrument Key Score
No. 1 BWV 787 Sinfonia / harpsichord C Major Example
No. 2 BWV 788 Sinfonia / harpsichord C Minor Example
No. 3 BWV 789 Sinfonia / harpsichord D Major Example
No. 4 BWV 790 Sinfonia / harpsichord D Minor Example
No. 5 BWV 791 Sinfonia / harpsichord E Major Example
No. 6 BWV 792 Sinfonia / harpsichord E Major Example
No. 7 BWV 793 Sinfonia / harpsichord E Minor Example
No. 8 BWV 794 Sinfonia / harpsichord F Major Example
No. 9 BWV 795 Sinfonia / harpsichord F Minor Example
No. 10 BWV 796 Sinfonia / harpsichord G Major Example
No. 11 BWV 797 Sinfonia / harpsichord G Minor Example
No. 12 BWV 798 Sinfonia / harpsichord A Major Example
No. 13 BWV 799 Sinfonia / harpsichord A Minor Example
No. 14 BWV 800 Sinfonia / harpsichord Bb Major Example
No. 15 BWV 801 Sinfonia / harpsichord B Minor Example