SEON - Philips
2 LPs - 6775 025 - (p) 1977
2 LPs - RL 30400 - (p) 1980
2 CDs - SB2K 62946 - (c) 1997


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Concerto No. 1 in F Major, BWV 1046
21' 40"

- [---] 4' 23"

- Adagio 3' 44"

- Allegro
4' 40"

- Menuetto-Trio-Polonaise-Menuetto-Trio 8' 43"

Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047

11' 55"

- [...] 5' 20"

- Andante 3' 33"

- Allegro assai 3' 02"

Concerto No. 4 in G Major, BWV 1049

15' 24"

- Allegro 6' 50"

- Andante 3' 56"

- Presto 4' 38"

Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050
21' 03"

- Allegro 10' 03"

- Affettuoso 5' 53"

- Allegro 5' 07"

Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048
10' 52"

- [...] 6' 06"

- Allegro 4' 46"

Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major, BWV 1051
17' 34"

- [...]
6' 38"

- Adagio, ma non tanto 5' 03"

- Allegro 5' 53"


Sigiswald Kuiken, Violino piccolo (Peter Borlon, Antwerp, 1692 - Instrumental Collection of the Brussels Conservatory) 1

Sigiswald Kuiken, Violin (Maggini School, Brescia, second half of 17th century) . 2/solo 3/I 4/pr. 5/pr.

Alda Stuurop, Violin (Francesco Gobetti, Venezia, 1710) 1/I 2/I 3/II

Janneke van der Meer, Violin (Domenico Montagnana, Cremona, 1739) 1/I 2/I 3/III 4/II

Lucy van Dael, Violin (Gennario Gagliano, Napoli, 1732) 1/II 2/II
4/I 5

Ruth Hesseling, Violin (Mansiedl, Nürnberg, 1750) 1/II 2/II

Wiel Peeters, Viola (Joannes Tononi, Bologna, 1696)
1 2 3/I 4 5

Marléen  Thiers, Viola (Josephus Albanus, Bolzano, 1700)
1 2 3/II

Lucy van Dael, Viola (German, mid-18th century)


Lucy van Dael, Viola (Samuel Thompson, London, 1761)


Sigiswald Kuiken, Viola (Aegidius Klotz, Mittenwald, c.1760)


Anner Bylsma, Violoncello (Mattio Goffriller, Venezia, 1699) 1 2 3/I
5 6

Wieland Kuijken, Violoncello (Andrea Amati, Cremona, c.1570) 1 2

Richte van der Meer, Violoncello (Jacques Boquay, Paris, 1719)


Wieland Kuijken, Viola da Gamba (Pierre Prevost, Paris, 1634)



Adelheid Glatt, Viola da Gamba (R. Lewis, England, c.1700)


Anthony Woodrow, Violone (Jaap Bolink, Amsterdam, 1972, copy after Praetorius) 1 2 3 4 5 6

Frans Brüggen, Recorder (Friedrich Von Huene, Brookline, 1974, after Denner)

Kees Boeke, Recorder (Hans Coolsma, Utrecht, 1968, after Bressan)


Frans Brüggen, Transverse Flute (Godefroid-Adrien Rottenburgh, Brussels, c.1740)


Paul Dombrecht, Oboe (Richard Haka, amsterdam, c.1700) 1/I 2

Kue Ebbinge, Oboe (andreas Glatt, after J. Steenbergen, c.1718) 1/II

Pieter Dhont, Oboe (Peter De Koningh, after Engelbert Terton) 1/III

Brian Pollard, Bassoon (Piere Savary, Paris, c.1795, [6 Keys])

Ab Koster, Horn (Alexander, Mainz, after an Austrian model of 1785) 1/I

Jos Konings, Horn (Alexander, Mainz, after an Austrian model of 1785) 1/II

Claude Rippas, Trumpet (Meinl & Lauber, Geretsried, 1976, after an historical example)

Bob van Asperen, Harpsichord (William Dowd, Paris, 1975, after Blanchet) 1 2

Gustav Leonhardt, Harpsichord (William Dowd, Paris, 1975, after Blanchet)

3 4 5 6

Gustav LEONHARDT, conductor


Luogo e data di registrazione
Doopsgezinde Kerk, Amsterdam (Holland):
- No. 5: Gennaio 1976
- Nos. 3 & 6: Luglio 1976
- No. 1: Dicembre 1976
Lutherse Kerk, Haarlem (Holland):
- No. 2: Giugno 1977
- No. 4: Marzo 1977

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Recording Supervisor
Wolf Erichson

Recording Engineer

Dieter Thomsen

Prima Edizione LP
Seon (Philips) | 6775 025 | 2 LPs - durata 48' 59" - 49' 29" | (p) 1977 | ANA
Seon (RCA Red Seal) | RL 30400 | 2 LPs - durata 48' 59" - 49' 29" | (p) 1980 | ANA

Edizione CD
Sony | SB2K 62946 | 2 CDs - durata 44' 58" & 54' 51" | (c) 1997 | ADD

Original Cover

Peter Jacob Horemans "Concert at the Schlos Ismaning", Detail, 1731 - Bayerisches Nationalmuseum München


The “Brandenburg” Concertos
The imposing title “Brandenburg” Concertos originated with Bach’s biographer Philipp Spitta and has been firmly entrenched for a hundred years. Bach himself called his works simply “Concerts avec plusieurs instruments." All six were composed in Cöthen between 1718 and 1721. Only the first concerto has an extant earlier version, in the shape of the Sinfonia in F (BWV 1046a), which was most probably written in 1716 in conjunction with the “Hunt” Cantata (BWV 206) for the court at Weissenfels. Bach made a careful fair copy of these six concertos, and a facsimile is included with this recording. This transcript was dedicated on March 24,1721 to Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg, the youngest son of the Great Elector. Bach had by his own account met him a few years earlier, perhaps in 1719, when he was in Berlin to take possession of a new harpsichord ordered for Cöthen. As Margrave Christian Ludwig, who lived at the palace in Berlin, himself maintained a small band of six musicians, this encounter may have occurred for the purpose of joint music-making. On this occasion the prince would propably have expressed a desire to be acquainted with other works by Bach, and this was ultimately fulfilled in 1721 when the Cöthen Kapellmeister dedicated the six concertos, to him.
Which of Bach’s concertos were played by the Margrave’s band in Berlin is beyond our knowledge. Only the fifth and sixth concertos were actually playable without augmenting the few musicians who worked there. The fact that the presentation copy shows no signs of use is certainly no absolute proof that the works were not played, since the individual parts would in any case have had to be written out from the score in order to be performed. At all events, in writing the concertos Bach took no account of the circumstances in Berlin, but worked entirely in terms of the Cöthen orchestra. As the exact composition of his little chamber orchestra is known, the instrumentation of these concertos, which is often far from normal, may be explained in detail by reference to actual performing practice in Cöthen. Bach, who in fact had started out as a violinist, preferred by his own admission to play the viola in the orchestra, because in this way he could be “in the middle of the harmony." The
sixth concerto, for instance, with its peculiarly low orchestration (two violas, two gambas, and bosso continuo), is written more or less directly for Prince Leopold. He played the gamba, which was a favourite instrument amongst the nobility at the time, with Bach on first viola and the second principal violinist on second viola. In the fifth concerto (for flute, violin, harpsichord obbligato, and string orchestra) there is no second violin in the tutti, which was most unusual for the period. In this Bach was making a virtue of necessity, for he himself took on the big harpsichord part on the new instrument, and thus could not play the viola, so that the second violinist had to be used on the viola part, while the first violinist was employed as a soloist in the concertino group.
For all their unique artistic stature, the “Brandenburg” Concertos take on a more “human” scale when seen from this angle. Bach the Kapellmeister composed them, like all his works, not for an imaginary future but for the requirements and conditions of the immediate present. With imagination and great originality he was able to compensate for inevitable limitations in scoring, and the diverse colouring of the instrumental groups is precisely what gives the concertos that special charm of their own. Thus it is also out of the question that Bach might here have intended to write a proper cycle of concertos. His “Six Sonatas for Violin Solo,” produced at almost the same time, his “Six Suites for Violoncello,” and the “Six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord Concertato,
all show his current thinking about the nature of a cycle: it was to be a complete work of more or less uniform construction, dominated by at least one consistent guiding principle. The “Brandenburg” Concertos, on the other hand, have no such principle. As the original title indicates, Bach wished to demonstrate in these works the widely varied possibilities of the concerto form, but not to combine them by musical similarity into a unified whole. The source material also supports this thesis; only the presentation copy brings the six pieces together, while all other sources invariably offer them separately. Finally, stylistic research also provides evidence that these concertos were written over a period of several years.
Any attempt to place these concertos in chronological order is bound, for all their many-sidedness, to take account of one clearly delineated basic tendency - Bach’s progression away from the multiple concerto towards solo music. He does not settle on a particular type but illustrates in six very different variants a whole century and a half of Baroque concerto writing, instilling a new synthesis and reshaping the form on the highest creative level. In the space of somewhat over three years he probably wrote first the concertos Nos. 3 and 6, together with the revision of No. 1, which had no solo instruments in its earlier version. No. 2 gives prominence to four soloists, while in No. 4 the violin is granted a special virtuoso solo position. No. 5 marks the last stage in this development, culminating in the great harpsichord cadenza in the first movement. Thus the most likely sequence of composition between 1718 and 1721 is Nos. 3, 6,1, 2, 4, and 5.
Concerto No. 3 represents the oldest type of concerto writing, dividing the instruments into several choirs; in spirit it owes something to the age of the Gabrielis, around 1600. Instead of tutti and concertino or solo instruments, here there are three opposing groups of equal importance, split into high, middle, and low choirs; after engaging in dialogue they coalesce, but the power of assimilation of the three choirs outweighs their propensity for dialogue. This treatment is modern, almost symphonic in its effect, and strikingly shows how Bach moulded the past into a contemporary idiom.
No. 6 is the most thinly scored of all the concertos, being supplied only with lower strings. It may be defined as a much modified example of the concerto grosso type, in which the concertino group gradually emerges from the tutti, rather than being an independent body of sound with a fixed number of parts contrasting with a similarly constant ripieno. This concerto, too, is a highly individual variant on the Italian concertato style.
The Sinfonia in F, which was completely reworked as Concerto No. 1, consists of three choirs. In the first movement, as in the third concerto, the two horns, three oboes, bassoon, and strings with violino piccolo mainly play as a unified body. In the second movement, however, the groups begin to take on soloistic features, and by the third the solo element already has the upper hand over the group concept.
The trend towards the solo concerto perceptible in this work shows itself still more clearly in No. 2. Superficially this is typical of the concerto grosso of the High Baroque, separating a four-part concertino (clarino, flute, oboe, and violin) from a full string tutti. The treatment of the concertino is constantly varied, with individual instruments set against the ripieno continually creating new combinations of sound; such treatment, in fact, already reveals a high degree of independence, shown also in the thematic material, particularly of the last movement. The middle movement, which is more like a quartet than a concerto, provides a point of repose and could be taken for a sonata movement.
Although Concertos Nos. 4 and 5 still owe a certain amount to the concerto grosso of the High Baroque, in each of these works one instrument takes the lead as soloist. In No. 4 a concertino of violin and two recorders is set against the strings. The second movement of this concerto, with the violin pre-eminent, has an unmistakable concertante character, in Corelli’s sense. Similarly, in No. 5 the obbligato harpsichord stands out from the concertino, which also includes flute and violin, particularly as it plays without a break from beginning to end. The great harpsichord cadenza in the first movement was originally only 19 bars long. As the latest research on the manuscript has demonstrated, it was literally at the last minute while writing out the presentation copy that Bach extended it to 65 bars, thus more than trebling its length and thereby giving the movement the character of a harpsichord concerto. The second movement again features solo playing, in the form of a trio - one senses that Bach was composing the violin sonatas with harpsichord obbligato at the same time.
Thus Bach with his supreme creative gift succeeded in working old and new together in his “Brandenburg” Concertos. In them he renders an account of the whole concerto tradition, merging past memories with the present. He never treads the well-worn conventional paths but modifies each pattern in the most individual manner, allowing his imagination free rein in fresh combinations and variations of the inherited forms. The unique amalgamation of solo and group concerto is his most original contribution to the history of the concerto. This is also shown later in his solo concertos for violin or harpsichord and orchestra, in that they stress the co-operation rather than the opposition between the participants; in this way he emphasises much more consistently than the Italians the homogeneous construction of a concerto movement. The “Brandenburg” Concertos are thus landmarks in the development of the form. After 250 years they are still modern.
Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht
(English translation by Robert Jordan)

On the Use of Original Instruments
If one is convincing, what is offered will leave an authentic impression. If one strives to be authentic, it will never be convincing. It is only by trying to penetrate the world of ideas of a great mind and of his age that a performer - speaking quite generally - can, if he has acquired sufficient technique and himself has the secret of talent, give the impression of presenting something true and genuine.
The rendering of a piece of music can, however, never be authentic, since the music itself refuses to be tied down. Music is not the written notes, but the sounds. Even the composer gives a new authenticity to every performance of his work.
It seems to me that the conflict between authentic and unauthentic (who could possibly judge?) is less important than the question of artistic quality, which is hard to put into words (“le cœur a ses raisons...”); on this point one can only leave the public to judge - though the public, like musicians, will change. (Some shortcomings must occasionally be attributed to the fact that this change is not synchronised - and it is not always the musicians who take the lead...!).
I hope this recording will not be labelled “definitive” or “authentic” on account of the instrumentation. It was made by musicians who regard historical research as important and as part of their job, though without parading it or seeing it as “special.” Nor is using historical instruments very unusual, at least not for the players. Many listeners may find the sound strange, but on closer, “synchronised” listening they may admit that the balance between the instruments now comes about quite naturally, that the diversity of tonal nuance and subtlety of intonation in the woodwind provide a richness not available to the smoother modern instruments - and that the string instruments have a more slender, yet more abundant range of sound than those of later periods, which are suitable for other music. The ear adjusts more quickly than one might think, which is good, for then instruments will again have become for players and listeners literally “instruments” in the service of the music, and everyone, both connoisseurs and music-lovers, can surrender themselves, with constantly reawakened wonder, to Johann Sebastian Bach’s unfailing sense of proportion and immense inventive power.
Gustav Leonhardt
(English translation by Robert Jordan)