A Level Music: Brandenburg Concerto No 4: Movement 1 by Bach

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  • Brandenburg Concerto No 4, Movement I by Bach
    • Background
      • Concerto Grosso
      • Small group of soloists (the concertino) accompanied by string orchestra and continuo (the ripieno).
      • Bach's Brandenburg Concerti are known for variety of soloists employed, virtuosity required, and level of craftsmanship
      • Composed between 1717-1721 whilst Bach was Kapellmeister for a Prince in Germany
      • Concerto: popular: gave opportunity for soloists to display virtuosity in ensembles
    • Resources
      • Modern score: 2 flutes, violin I, violin II, viola, violincello, double bass and continuo
      • No dynamic markings: Bach achieves contrast through his texture
        • Exception: bars 257-263
      • 2 flutes almost always play together: exception: bars 257-263
        • At top of texture: can be easily heard above strings
        • Range: F above middle C to top G (2  octaves higher)
      • Principal violin: solo work in addition to playing in trio with flutes. Only instrument to be virtuosic: bars 83-124 (elaborate string crossing) and non-stop demisemiquavers: bars 187-208
      • Ripieno players provide...
        • Dynamic contrast, harmonic support and textural contrast
      • Harpsichord provides harmonies
      • Violincello and double bass: provide bass line throughout
    • Structure
      • Ritornello form
        • Vordersatz: head motif: memorable musical gesture that defines the key and sets the style
        • Fortspinnung: spinning out: continuation from head motif spun out of repetition and development of short phrases
        • Epilog: closing theme: breaks momentum or Fortspinnung and leads to a structural cadence
      • Intergrates solo and tutti sections
    • Tonality
      • Modulates frequently to related keys
        • G (tonic), D (dominant), C (subdominant), relative minors (E, B and A minor)
      • G Major
      • Reinforced by cadences and pedals
    • Harmony
      • Functional: opening 'motto' theme based on perfect cadence (I-V-I)
      • Harmonic sequences: bars 13-18
      • Circle of 5ths: bars 175-178
      • Dissonance: 7th chords and suspensions: bars 69-70
      • Diatonic
        • Except for neopolitan chord: bar 155 and diminished 7th: bar 195
      • Harmonic rhythm is mostly one chord per bar : opening, yet speeds up towards cadences at end of sections: bars 79-83 where there is a chord every quaver
      • Lengthy dominant pedals: bars 211-222
      • Avoidance of cadences to keep music moving forward: bars 302-322
    • Rhythm
      • Patterns established at start (typical of Baroque)
      • Continuous semiquavers in melody
        • Semiquavers in all parts: bar 38
      • Ties across bar line produce syncopation: bars 43-46: add energy and direction
      • Hemiola: sense of 3-time to 2-time in final bars of each ritornello section: bars 79-80
    • Metre
      • 3/8
      • Feels as one dotted crotchet beat per bar
        • Gives a joyous feel to the rhythmic flow
    • Textures
      • Bottom 3 staves closely linked
      • Bass line underpins texture
        • Sounds octave lower than written: normally only supports texture when ripieno plays
      • Homophonic: bars 1-3 flute melody
      • Monophonic: bars 84, 86
      • Contrapuntal: bars 13-22
      • Antiphonal: bars 257-262
    • Melody
      • Simply shaped melodies based on scales and broken chords
      • Recognisable: consistently used
      • Recurrent interval of 3rd: appears in first 3 notes of violin and colours additional material in ritornello
      • 5 principal motifs
        • Extended through:
          • Sequence: bars 13-18
            • 'Results in 'super melodies' that move slowly across long passages: bars 13-23
          • Inversion: bar 21 in flute 1
          • Repetition: bars 7-12 or 1-6

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