We are finishing our series on Bach’s Brandenburg concerti with the sixth concerto in B flat major. This concerto is Bach’s way of throwing the audience (as they say in Boston) a “wicked” curveball. For instance, he limited the 6th concerto’s ensemble to only strings and harpsichord – no wind instruments whatsoever. An even more shocking move is the exclusion of any violins from the concerto – only violas, violas da gamba, and cellos are utilized. Given the frequency with which Bach used the violin as the lead voice in the previous five concerti, this was a significant change. As a result of this change, the violas suddenly became the lead voice and the entire tonal register is lowered, creating a denser and more weighty sound.
You may remember our past series on Bach’s Six Suites for Solo Cello, in which we talked about his trailblazing effort to feature as a solo instrument an instrument that was, at that time, considered to be purely for accompaniment. We see this same trailblazing effort in the 6th Brandenburg concerto; this time, Bach is trying to highlight the oft-maligned viola.
P.S. Leave a comment and let me know what you would like to see in a future series!