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How did Bach feel about the Brandenburgs?

Gabriel Fauré described an 1887 composition of his as “elegant, assuredly, but not particularly important.” When I read this, while preparing a script for the Danville Band, it got me to wondering how J.S. Bach felt about my favorite music, the Brandenburg Concertos. I don’t think a month has gone by since 1970 when I didn’t listen to one or more of them.

So I asked my long-time friend Kevin Mostyn, a treasure-trove of classical music knowledge. He said it was unlikely we’ll ever know how Bach felt. He then schooled me about my ignorance of Bach. And sent me to Bach’s Suites for Orchestra, which I hadn’t previously known.

Anyone who ever listened to PDQ Bach knows the composer had 20 children. But he was as fecund with his music as he was with his organ―for which he also wrote music. Anyway, between his job and his love life, he isn’t likely to have written journals or letters. We probably have less than half his work.

Turns out the Brandenburgs were basically an audition for Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, who hired Bach on the spot, even though it is likely he never heard them performed.

Talk about work for hire… when he was the musician-in-chief at a Lutheran church for 27 years, he was expected to write a new cantata every week for the Sunday service. I could, perhaps, write a weekly sermon for 27 years, but an original, breathtakingly beautiful piece of music? Now that’s impressive.


Daniel Dern

Wrong composer and wrong piece (here) but hey, this is a comment

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