Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos “are widely regarded as some of the best orchestral compositions of the Baroque era,” but did you know they were completely ignored during the composer’s lifetime?
It’s true, and it’s all because Bach wrote what he heard in his head without regard for the ensemble that would be asked to play the actual music.
Bach gave the concertos to Christian Ludwig, margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721, most likely in hopes of getting a job as his court composer. According to Christoph Wolff, Bach used the “widest spectrum of orchestral instruments … in daring combinations,” but the margrave didn’t have enough musicians in his ensemble to play the pieces as written. So, the score gathered dust in his library, and after a while it was sold off in an estate sale. The concertos were only discovered and recognized for what they were in 1849, 99 years after the gifted composer had taken his last bow.
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