On Bach's Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Major
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This post is program notes for a performance. We recorded the performance and posted it on YouTube.
The history of J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Major is somewhat mysterious. The earliest source is a manuscript by his wife, Anna Magdalena Bach, dated from 1732 or 1733 while he lived in Leipzig. However, the limited compass of the harpsichord parts may indicate that it may have been written earlier in his career, perhaps while he was in Köthen. We do know that the earliest manuscripts do not contain the parts for strings, but we do not know who added them. Perhaps Bach did, or perhaps his son Wilhelm Friedemann did, or perhaps another anonymous author did.1 Regardless, the strings largely mirror and reinforce the harpsichord parts, but also occasionally interject with a repetition of the opening motif, helping to provide continuity to the piece as a whole, structuring and framing the harpsichord soloist.
This piece begins with an allegro first movement in which the harpsichords and their string assistants discuss a theme in a sprightly and friendly argument. In the second, adagio ovvero largo movement, the harpsichords carefully engage in a minor-key contemplation. The third movement is a fugue, in which all the voices work together through an intricate development to an triumphant conclusion.
“[Bach Digital - Konzert in C (1. Fassung Für 2 Cembali) BWV 1061.1],”(https://www.bach-digital.de/receive/BachDigitalWork_work_00001247) accessed May 2, 2023, [https://www.bach-digital.de/receive/BachDigitalWork_work_00001247]; “Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Major,” accessed May 16, 2022, [https://www.bachvereniging.nl/en/bwv/bwv-1061/]