Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No.1 in F, BWV.1046

The first movement of the Concerto No.1 in F starts suddenly with the entire chamber orchestra playing full force at a rather brisk tempo. This is a joyous movement, full of life and cheer. The second movement, by contrast, is quite somber and meditative, almost sad, like something that would be appropriate at a funeral. Fortunately, the third movements picks up the quick pace again, and is full of those complex, filigree of melodies winding their way around each that I so love in Bach. This concerto is unique among his six Brandenburgs, because it has a fourth movement which is divided into four sections: a minuet, a trio, a polka, and a final trio.

The movement starts out in a quite stately fashion, perfect for “upper-crusties” mincing around in brocade jackets and powdered wigs. This is a grounding theme, to which the piece returns after playing the minuet and polka. In this movement he uses two horns, three oboes, a bassoon, and violin at various either in solos or trios. In this Youtube recording at the 5 minute and 15 second mark, Bach gives it all over to the woodwinds, who perk along at a jaunty clip in with an almost  music box-like quaintness.  That little section, only about a minute long, never failed to surprise me and lift my spirits.

And in the spring of 1974, my spirits needed lifting.

That semester I had transferred from Purdue University to Indiana University at South Bend (IUSB) and moved back in with my parents.  That was a bit of a failure in my family’s eyes, I think, since it meant reject Purdue, where my three brothers had gotten their bachelor’s degrees.  It was also kind of a bummer living at home when, by this time, I was supposed to be out on my own.

At IUSB, I hung around with two friends whom I’d known nearly all my life–Doug and Mary. Doug’s parents had come to the States from Germany to work at a German-owned and operated factory in Michigan City, Indiana. Mary’s mom taught high school home economics. Doug and Mary had been sweethearts in middle school–Doug was on the basketball team and Mary was a cheerleader–and though they had had a falling out in high school, they remained friends.

Mary used to help me study for my Western civilization class (I just couldn’t remember all those dates) and we even went out on a few dates, though they were more friendly than serious. This was during my skeptical phase, and I think her father, being a war veteran, thought I was a communist.

About this time Transcendental Meditation had become very popular in the United States. In high school, Doug had let his hair grow long and had become something of a hippie. At college one day, he spotted a poster advertising a course in TM, which he attended. He came back a convert and started doing things like fasting, reading Ram Dass, and practicing yoga. One day, Mary came running into the study room to find me. Doug’s fasting had caused him to faint in the library, and he had fallen against a bookshelf and split open his cheek. She asked me if I could drive him to the emergency room of the hospital so he could get stitched up.

Despite this ominous introduction to eastern philosophy, I did take an interest meditation.

However, I tended to try to approach it from the western Judeo-Christian tradition I was raised in. So I started investigating Christian mysticism. I read Thomas Merton‘s autobiography, “The Seven Story Mountain,” and some of his later writings in which he started to approach Buddhist thought. Merton mentioned the “Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius and Thomas A Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ,” which I also read. These taught ways of acting in a humble way and certain guided imagery activities to put oneself in Christ’s sandals, so to speak. I don’t remember if it was in these or some other medieval writer’s book, but when I came to a part where you were supposed to imagine yourself hanging on the cross, well, it became a bit too much for me.

Looking back, these “tortured” thoughts and occupations make me cringe a bit.  I was trying to work out my own spirituality and trying to find my way as a wannabe intellectual, desperate to have a meaningful relationship with a soul mate.  The latter took far too many years to finally discover, and so in 1974, I had to make do with the wonderfully uplifting music of Bach.

Biography

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About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

2 Responses to Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No.1 in F, BWV.1046

  1. TM was big back when I was in school, too (back in the 70’s). Had some friends who really got into it.

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  2. That’s pretty awesome that they have a harpsichordist instead of someone just playing it on the piano. Bach’s music is so good. It’s amazing that someone could write as much flawless music in one life time as Bach did. They stories of how genius he was as a kid always shock me.

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