1713: Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No.1 in F Major

SATURDAY, November 28, 2020 – 10:03 AM

I’m doing research on all the Brandenburg Concertos, but it has not been easy because of lack of information. The best overviews I’ve found so far are HERE . and HERE. I can’t find any solid information about when each one was composed, so I’m just using this:

Generally, it’s believed Bach may have begun composing some of the works that made it into the final version as early as 1708. What’s undisputed is that they were completed in 1721.

So we have a time frame of around 13 years, and any dates I give for years will be inaccurate, only a ball park estimate, and I’ll try to get more accurate in the future, if I can find better historical information.

Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major, age 28

(First of all, the horn parts of this are outrageous, to the point that some groups who are careful to use only natural horns can get so rambunctious  that they are almost unbelievably crude. Listen to this HERE to hear what this would sound like with natural horns. Most people have no idea just how impossible these old horns are to play when they have no valves. Then compare with this HERE to hear how different it is with modern instruments that are safe but tame. By the way, no one agrees when there were written, but evidence seems to suggest that 1, 3 and 6 were written earlier and have a style compared to music he wrote around 1713. In fact, this could have been written as early as 1708, when Bach was only 23. There is also superb info about all six HERE.)

Musica Amphion

I add this last, and there is something about this group that really impresses. Well, actually, there is a lot about this group that impresses, but most of all the older horns. You can tell that these are period instruments because you will hear E major in instead of F major, which means the pitch is down 1/2 step.

Freiburger Barockorchestra

The pitch is lower, so that’s a clue. These are natural horns, and they are really good. As you listen just remember how incredibly difficult these beasts are to play. This is one of the best performances I’ve found.

Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment

The pitch is lower, and some of the horn notes are a bit out of tune, and there is a bark. Then sometimes every other notes is closed with the hand, so these are older horns without valves, and these guys are really good! There is more about them HERE, and the only weakness with this recording is that we don’t get to see them play. Usually a dead giveaway for period instruments is lower pitch. This may be my favorite performance because the horns are edgy and exciting, and more than any Bach I’ve ever heard horns are front and center in this concerto.

Musica Amphion

It’s down a 1/2 step, so immediately you know it’s supposed to be original instruments. I’d like to see the horn players. Whatever they are playing these guys are good! This is another wonderful recording, and I want to come back to this for the whole set.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

With this group you get only the 1st movement, but all the players are listed. These are modern instruments, meaning that playing the parts on modern horns is only difficult and not impossible. It’s modern pitch, but it has a lot of the period sound, and the tempo is really quick. I wish they did the whole thing. The two ladies playing horn are very good!

Claudio Abbado

You immediately know these are modern instruments. First, it’s modern pitch. Then the horns have a more polished sound, which has nothing to do with the musicians being better, thought these horn players are superb. It’s just safer with valved horns. It’s like a high wire act with nets that is not that high off the ground, and their are other safety precautions.

Carl Richter

Look at the size of the group. Modern instruments, modern pitch. Valved horns. It’s just a different sound.

Ars Lyrica Houston

This is absolutely outrageous. These primitive horns have to be heard to be believed. I can’t say anything else except that you have to admire their energy. The horn players are terrible, but it shows how horribly difficult it is to play horns like this.

Otto Klemperer

He had an amazing way of stretching things, but he was probably weakest in Baroque music, and this is like flat champagne, American light beer. Call it body, or sparkle, but this just doesn’t have it. It’s safe, polite and neutered. If you start with Bach this way, you never understand what made his music so revolutionary, vital and just plain fun.

3 thoughts on “1713: Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No.1 in F Major

  1. Years ago I had a very tiny collection of Naxos recordings and some of the Brandenburg concertos was one of them. I listened to this during my ski run and had to let it run on into 2nd concerto. That’s one I had heard many times, but not played like this! It was amazing (Freiburger). The information was interesting and I’d like to learn more.

  2. The natural horn sound is something I have not heard before. The Freiburger Barockorchestra horns had a more pleasant sound than the Ars Lyrica Houston which sounded harsh.

    The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is the one I prefer for modern instruments. The horns have a more melodious sound. I enjoyed their lively performance.

    I have to agree with you about Klemper’s rendition. It lacked energy.

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