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Music Society of St. Cecilia Concert
December 15, 2001
Los Angeles Orchestra

Telemann: Concerto in D for Three Trumpets, Two Oboes, Timpani, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV 54:D3 | Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, BWV 1049 | Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Concerto in D for Three Trumpets, Two Oboes, Timpani, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV 54:D3


The publication of Vivaldi's early concertos took Germany by storm. Georg Philipp Telemann was one of many native composers, who began to follow in Vivaldi's footsteps. One of Germany's most prolific composers and despite claiming to dislike the genre, Telemann produced more than 100 concerti for solo instruments as well other combinations including concerti grossi. In addition to composing, Telemann was also noted for organizing amateur musical societies (collegia musica), promoting public concerts, and improving the status of the professional musician. The Concerto in D for Three Trumpets, Two Oboes, Timpani, Strings, and Basso Continuo that we hear tonight first appeared as the "Concerto" or "Sinfonia" to a serenata written and performed at the 1716 festivities for the birth of Prince Leopold, heir to Emperor Charles VI. The birth of the prince brought a sense of peace and stability to the people who were well aware of the dangers of succession conflicts. The city of Frankfurt mounted large-scale events to mark this celebration including church services, banquets, concerts, and the frequent playing of fanfares and shooting of cannons. Telemann, the town musician, produced a Serenata: Deutschland grünt und blüht im Friede (or Germania mit ihrem Chor) which was performed on the Römerberg in the center of the city. A special scaffold was built to make it accessible to a larger audience. The dramatic piece is a typical serenata, with allegorical characters representing the spirit of these celebrations (Germany, peace, etc). Not satisfied with the skills of all the local musicians for this important occasion, Telemann got permission to import some orchestral "ringers" and singers from the court in Darmstadt.

The opening concerto that we hear tonight was published separately and is now most frequently performed as a concerto in its own right. The piece falls in three main sections. Setting the celebratory mood of its genesis, it begins with full orchestra including trumpet fanfares and drums. After a very brief Grave, there follows an extensive fugal section with all the instruments taking their turn at the theme. The central movement is a stately oboe solo accompanied by strings and basso continuo. The final movement brings back the trumpets and drums ending the piece with the general mood of celebratory pomp and circumstance.

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050

Johann Sebastian Bach's years as court musician at Cöthen gave him opportunity and incentive to perfect the art of instrumental music, particularly the Italian concerto form. Technical brilliance is certainly an important element of Bach's concerti, but the emphasis is weighted toward conversation between soloist(s) and orchestra rather than sheer virtuosic display. The six Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1046-51, are not solo concerti, but of two distinct types of ensemble concerto. Nos. 1, 3, and 6 are structured as two evenly balanced instrumental choirs in conversation. The works we hear tonight, Nos. 2, 4, and 5 are more typical concerti grossi, works for a small group of soloists (concertino) in dialog with the full orchestra (ripieno or tutti) but with Bach's unique twist. Rather than just a two-tiered hierarchy, concertino and ripieno, there is another layer. Each concerto gives a single concertino instrument the most responsibility for virtuosity (no. 2, trumpet; no. 4, violin; no. 5, harpsichord).

Although the six concertos were dedicated to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg in Berlin, 1721, the set seems to have been compiled of works composed earlier in the composer's tenure at the court of Cöthen. The instrumentation required fits precisely that of the court orchestra.. By 1721, Bach was looking around for a new position, and remembered an earlier request made by the Margrave so Bach sent him these works. This not only fulfilled the earlier request, but may also have served as an exploration of the possibility of a position in Berlin. Bach did not receive an offer of employment in Berlin, but the Brandenburg Concertos arguably have become his most loved orchestral works. Audiences warm not only to their exuberance but also the variety of instrumental colors used in each concerto.

In a sense Concerto No. 5 in D Major is the most unusual of the set. The keyboard is not only a member of the concertino (along with flute and violin), but is the lead member. In the conventional Baroque orchestra, the harpsichord normally performs the lowly role of filling in the harmonies of the basso continuo. In this concerto, Bach not only gives the harpsichord the primary virtuosic work, but also an extensive cadenza in the first movement. In addition, the inclusion of the harpsichord in the concertino makes it possible for the concertino to perform the entire central Affettuso movement alone. The inspiration for this concerto may have come from Bach's delight in the 1719 purchase of a marvelous new harpsichord for the Cöthen court.

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, BWV 1049

In the concertino (violin and two recorders) of Concerto No. 4 in G Major, the violin assumes the dominant role in the two outer movements, while it takes on a more subservient position in the Andante movement. The most substantial work of the set, this concerto employs all the forces in all movements. Bach's normal practice was to place the weightiest movement first, and a lighter dance movement for the finale. In this case the graceful dance-like movement (in 3/8 time) is first, and the more substantial material, complete with contrapuntal aspects, is presented last.

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047

There is no question of which concertino instrument takes the lead in Concerto No. 2 in F Major. The high demanding clarino register required of the trumpet player gives music directors pause in programming this work. Will they find someone who can play it? In fact, one trumpet virtuoso of our time is said to have built his luxury Swiss vacation home solely on his earnings from this work. The piece is not a trumpet concerto, however, but that instrument shares the concertino with a recorder, oboe, and violin, a truly diversely colorful group. The trumpet is heard along with the other soloists in various combinations in the first movement (without tempo marking, but the alla breve indicates a fast tempo). The trumpet takes a rest while the recorder, oboe, and violin take a musical stroll through the andante movement. The trumpet joins the other soloists and tutti orchestra for a musical dance, where all the players seem to be engaged in a great juggling act.

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Program notes by Linda Mack. Copyright 2001.
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Program notes home Alphabetical Index of Composers Chronological Index of Concerts