Manny’s Musings ~ Bach’s Violin Concerto

Nov 7, 2023Manny's Musings

We are pleased to post Manny’s Musings, a preview of the program notes for our upcoming concert. Enjoy these notes, and buy your tickets for the concert to hear these pieces played in person. 

Violin Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042

Johann Sebastian Bach

Genius reveals itself in myriad ways, but what is key in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is the unbelievable simplicity in the construction of his works. This certainly goes for the other great composers, as well. Beethoven was another with a talent for creating masterpieces out of simple arpeggios and rhythms that seem to have been born of a tantrum.

In Bach’s Concerto in E Major for Violin and Orchestra, he launches upward in typical optimistic fashion, taking the listener with him on the sonic roller coaster ride that is characteristic of so much of his music. In fact, it truly does seem to have the uplift that is found in the second of his Brandenburg concerti. Bach was reputed to have written quite a few concerti for violin, of which only three remain, one of them being a duo. What is not emphasized enough is the sheer virtuosity required to play these concerti. Familiarity may have us think that these are works that are merely “tossed off” by a soloist. Not so.

Johann Sebastian Bach (aged 61) in a portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann, copy or second version of his 1746 canvas. The original painting hangs in the upstairs gallery of the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) in Leipzig, Germany.

In the first movement Bach provides us with the opportunity to witness the cleverness that takes us from ascending melodies that seem to not want to come back down to earth, to minor passages that are almost stern in character. Bach sets up a cadenza that pauses before the soloist and orchestra settle into a firm ending.

The slow movement displays what Bach does so well. That is, an elegant melody that is sweet without ever becoming maudlin or self-indulgent. Although the Romantic era in music and its ancestral Baroque era have about 75 years (arguably) between them, Bach seems to provide one of those glimpses which speak of a different day to come. Mozart and Beethoven were partners in the same effort, whether accidental or intentional.

As the third movement begins, do not deny yourself the smile that is inevitable as the forces launch into a 6/8 time worthy of a dance! It is, typical to Bach, a briefer movement than the preceding two and is meant to provide the listener with the same taste in the mouth as would a tantalizing bonbon after a good meal. If you find yourself rocking to-and-fro in your seat as the music plays, not to worry, we understand.

Favorites: Yours, Mine, and Ours will be presented at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts on Sunday, November 19 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $14-$25 for adults and seniors, and free for students with ID and can be purchased online or by visiting the Bloomington Box Office in person Wednesday – Friday: 12:30 – 4:30 p.m., or by emailing or  calling 952-563-8545

Three violinists in a row, one man with glasses, and two women with curly hair, play
/BSO Concertmaster, Michael Sutton with violinists Jennifer Volby and Anna Andrews, play in concert Photo credit: Leslie Plesser