Music & Vision

The accomplished soloist in these concertos, Peter Seivewright, spends much of his booklet essay refuting the long -accepted view that Bach ‘s seven keyboard concertos are mostly arrangements of violin works . Since three of them certainly are (most notably the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto ), I am dubious of his case. The keyboard part in the Fifth Brandenburg, with its extended ‘ cadenza ‘, shows Bach in full virtuoso flight . There is nothing comparable here. The middle concertos on this CD both played their part in three church cantata adaptations, further evidence of Bach’s hoarding of good ideas, whatever the change of medium.

The identity of Seivewright’s solo instrument has not been revealed by Divine Art . Bach was not enamoured of the newfangled ‘ forte and piano ‘, though he certainly played one when visiting Frederick the Great at Potsdam (the king had fifteen such instruments , made by Gottfried Silbermann). Harpsichord , fortepiano and indeed modern piano are equally grist to Bach’s mill. Everything depends on the player ‘s sensitivity. This can be sampled at the start of the G minor concerto , once all thought of the violin original has been banished.

The best-known of these concertos is the powerful D minor. When the first two movements were dragooned into Cantata No 146, the solo part was transferred to the organ , a keyboard instrument but with yet more sustaining power than the violin. The same applies to the whole of the E major concerto, which reappeared in Cantatas 169 and 49. In this case the original was almost certainly for keyboard. The enchanting Siciliano could survive any words it might be saddled with, even such depressing sentiments as ‘Die in me, World ‘.

There are those who have thought that an original for the A major concerto might have been for oboe d’amore , a wonderfully expressive instrument, and a favourite of Bach’s. Perhaps so; but the sonorous phrases work admirably on the keyboard too.

The concertos were published among the chamber music volumes of the Bach Gesellschaft edition, and it is thoroughly refreshing to hear the ‘ orchestral ‘ lines taken by the Scottish Baroque Soloists , one player to a part. So the textures , under the leadership of Angus Ramsay, have a delightful and appropriate lightness.

—Robert Anderson