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Bach (1685-1750) - Concerto for Oboe, Violin & Strings

What is it about the music of J. S. Bach? It seems to come with its own, built-in “personality module”, so that even Percy Grainger's custom-designed “elastic orchestration” is left floundering when it comes to surviving arrangements and re-arrangements. What other composer produced music capable of emerging intact from the tender, and occasionally not-so-tender, ministrations of the likes of Jaques Loussier, the Swingle Singers and the Moog synthesiser of Walter (now Wendy, though this is more a political than a surgical re-alignment) Carlos? More to the point, why pick on Bach? After all, try as they may, those who venture to make Bach “their own” inevitably find that Bach somehow reaches out from beyond the grave to make them “his own”. 

Of course, Bach himself often adapted his music, transforming pieces from one format to another, a practice continued by others less radical than the aforementioned. The Concerto in D Minor for Violin, Oboe, Strings and Continuo, BWV 1060 is just one example, being a “reconstruction” of a Concerto for Two Harpsichords prepared by Max Schneider in the 1930s. Hearing it, would anyone guess that it wasn't always intended for violin and oboe? I could argue that the Double Violin Concerto BWV 1043, which shares the same key signature, is so finely crafted for its equal soli that it would sound less well if “arranged” for violin and oboe. Yet, if it weren't so well-known, would I dare to argue that with confidence? I suppose the point is that Bach generally composed his linear polyphonies in monochrome so that, like the pictures in a child's colouring book, any remotely sensible colour-scheme will fit the bill. It doesn't explain why Bach is still Bach even when it's jazz - that's something to argue about during the interval! 

In the normal baroque manner, the soloists form a concertino that variously emerges from and blends back into the ripieno of strings and continuo, most obviously in the rhythmically vigorous allegro movements. The central adagio is altogether “something else”, a truly ravishing cantilena to rival its more famous counterpart in BWV 1043.

© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street, Kamo, Whangarei 0101, Northland, New Zealand


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