Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Concerto Number 2 in F Major, BWV 1047

This concerto came to my attention in the early 1970s, when public television first arrived in my home town, Mishawaka, in Northern Indiana. In the Washington, DC where I now live, we have several three public television channels. When I was growing up, thought, we had just three channels–period.

When public television arrived, it brought “culture” to our area. We could watch plays, concerts, documentaries, classic movies and intellectual talk shows. Despite being on the opposite side of the political spectrum from him, I enjoyed watching “Firing Line” with William Buckley, which used Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Number 2 for its opening and closing music.

The Concerto Number 2 features trumpets, recorders, oboes and violins playing in the extremely high register. Back in Bach’s day, the trumpets had no valves, so this was very difficult for them to play. On the recording I soon bought after hearing the piece–one with Casals conducting the Marlboro Festival Orchestra–they substituted flutes for recorders. This Youtube performance uses recorders. It had a much warmer feeling on the whole. My vinyl version sounds precise and meticulous and is played fast, which is Okay considering the intellectual pyrotechnics one sometimes witnessed on “Firing Line.”

The Andante–the second movement–has the cellos play a clock-like accompaniment to the slowed-down, but still high flutes and violins. It has a contemplative, deliberate feel to it. By contrast, the last movement explodes with a trumpet playing a very high flourish at a rapid tempo. The flutes and oboes join in and play counter point to the orchestra for the remainder of the movement with a driving rhythm that ends triumphantly and majestically.

Pieces like this never fail to pick me up and even give me a feeling of rebirth. Bach’s music experienced something of a rebirth thanks to the efforts of Mendelssohn. After Bach died, his music faded into obscurity and his reputation was eclipsed by his four sons who became famous in their own right as composers. I wonder why they did not champion his music more. Maybe there was some Oedipal reason for them remaining silent.

In 1829, however, 75 years after Bach’s death, Mendelssohn, who in addition to being a composer and performer, conducted Bach’s St Matthews’ Passion to critical acclaim and the old man came back into vogue. He has remained so to this day, his albums selling as much as the other two German Bs: Beethoven and Brahms.

It makes you wonder how many works by other composers, writers or artists throughout the ages have remained hidden in attics or old church lofts somewhere. When I was growing up TV was busy sucking the last bit of creative energy out of people, who before then sang songs, played an instrument, or found interesting ways to channel their artistic energies. Fortunately, we now live in a fantastic digital age, which affords one so many opportunities to create and share what they’ve created. Sure, there’s a lot of garbage, but a person sitting alone in a room with a keyboard can now create a blog, and write about any topic–classical music for example, and in moment publish it and it can be seen instantly all over the world. Now how’s that for a kind of rebirth–of the human creative element?

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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.)

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