Santiago de Chile, Chile
Wednesday August 22nd, 2007
Santiago de Chile, Chile
Teatro Oriente
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Bach: Harpsichord Concert E Major BWV1053
Bach: Harpsichord Concert F Minor BWV1056
Bach: Harpsichord Concert G Minor BWV1058

Nueva Orquesta Sinfónica de Providencia
José Luis Nieto, piano
Denis Kolobov, conductor

The harpsichord concertos, BWV 1052–1065, are concertos for harpsichord, strings and continuo by Johann Sebastian Bach.
All of Bach’s harpsichord concertos (with the exception of the 5th Brandenburg Concerto) are thought to be arrangements made from earlier concertos for melodic instruments probably written in Köthen. In many cases, only the harpsichord version has survived.

From 1729 to 1741, Bach was director of the Collegium musicum in Leipzig, a student musical society, founded by Georg Philipp Telemann in 1703 and run before Bach by Balthasar Schott. The Collegium musicum often gave performances at Zimmermann’s coffee house. It was for these occasions that Bach produced his harpsichord concertos, among the first concertos for keyboard instrument ever written. It is thought that the multiple harpsichord concertos were heard earlier than those for one harpsichord, perhaps because his sons C. P. E. Bach and W. F. Bach (both excellent harpsichord players) were living at home until 1733 and 1734, respectively. It is likely that Johann Ludwig Krebs, who studied with Bach until 1735, also played harpsichord in the Collegium musicum.

The concertos for one harpsichord, BWV 1052–1059, survive in an autograph score (now in the Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Mus. ms. Bach P 234) which is not a fair copy but a draft, or working score, and has been dated to about 1738. Bach may of course have played the works much earlier, using the parts from an original melody-instrument concerto and extemporising a suitable harpsichord version while playing.

Bach’s harpsichord concertos were, until recently, often underestimated by scholars, who did not have the convenience of hearing the benefits that historically informed performance has brought to works such as these. For instance Albert Schweitzer believed ” he transcriptions have often been prepared with almost unbelievable cursoriness and carelessness. Either time was pressing or he was bored by the matter.” Recent research has demonstrated quite the reverse to be true; he transferred solo parts to the harpsichord with typical skill and variety. Bach’s interest in the harpsichord concerto form can be inferred from the fact that he arranged every suitable melody-instrument concerto as a harpsichord concerto, and while the harpsichord versions have been preserved the same is not true of the melody-instrument versions.