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Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, BWV 1051

November 19, 2017: Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Written in 1721 as a means of gaining favor from the Margrave of Brandenburg, Bach’s “Six concerts à plusieurs instruments” never garnered payment or even thanks for the composer. Yet they establish him today as the master of the concerto grosso style pioneered by Corelli. Brandenburg Concerto #6 is scored for string orchestra, but without violins; violas carry the upper melodic material. This lower tessitura makes the piece ideal for an arrangement for guitar quartet. Set in a fast-slow-fast structure, the piece showcases Bach’s peerless use of imitative writing. The first movement is drivingly propulsive, with the two top parts chasing each other in a canon at the 1/8th note. The middle movement is one of Bach’s stately and shimmering Adagios, while the final movement is one of Bach’s most joyous gigues, with a rondo theme recurring in a variety of guises.

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