A Level Music: Brandenburg Concertos No 4: Movement I by Bach

When was this piece composed?
Between 1717-1721
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Who are the concertos dedicated to?
The Duke of Brandenburg in 1721
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What was Bach's profession when he wrote the concertos?
Kapellmeister for a Prince in Germany
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What type of work is this piece from?
Concerto grosso
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What is a Concerto grosso?
A small group of soloists (the concertino) accompanied by a string orchestra and continuo (the ripieno)
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What are the Brandenburg's known for?
Variety of soloists employed, virtuosity required, and the level of craftsmanship
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Were concertos popular? Why?
Yes, they gave soloists the opportunity to display virtuosity in ensembles
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Name the resources
2 flutes, violins I and II, viola, violincello, double bass and continuo
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What is the role of the harpsichord?
To provide the harmonies
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What is the role of the violincello and double bass?
To provide the bass line throughout
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What do the ripieno players provide?
Dynamic contrast, harmonic support and textural support.
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What is the role of the principal violin?
To play solo work as well as play in trio with the flutes. It is the only instrument to be virtuosic: e.g. elaborate string crossing: bars 83-124 and non-stop demisemiquavers: bars 187-208
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Do the 2 flutes always play together? Why are they placed on top of the texture?
Almost always, exception: bars 257-263. So that they can be easily heard above the strings.
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What is the range of the flutes?
F above middle C to top G (2 octaves higher)
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Are there dynamic markings? Why?
No. Bach achieved dynamic contrast through his texture. Exception: bars 257-263
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What is the structure of this piece?
Ritornello form. Bach intergrates solo and tutti sections.
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What is the Vordersatz?
The head motif. This is a memorable musical gesture that defines the key and sets the style.
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What is the Fortspinnung?
It translates to 'spinning out'. It is a continuation from the head motif that 'spins out' repetition and development of short phrases
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What is the Epliog?
Closing theme. Breaks the momentum of the Fortspinnung and leads to a structural cadence
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Describe in depth the structure
Ritornello 1 (in G major): bars 1-83, Solo 1: bars 83-137, Ritornello 2 (in E minor): bars 137-157, Solo 2: bars 157-209, Ritornello 3 (in C major): bars 209-235, Solo 3: bars 235-323, Ritornello 4 (in B minor): bars 323-344, Rit 1 (G): bars 345-427
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What is the tonality of this piece? How is it reinforced?
G major. By cadences and pedals.
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Does it modulate frequently to related keys?
Yes. G (tonic), D (dominant), C (subdominant), relative minors (E, B and A minor).
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Describe the harmony
Diatonic, circle of 5ths: bars 175-178, harmonic sequences: bars 13-18, dissonance created by 7th chords and suspensions: bars 69-70, lengthy dominant pedals: 211-222, neopolitan chord: bar 155 and diminished 7th: bar 195
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Discuss the harmonic rhythm
Mostly one chord per bar in the opening yet this speeds up towards cadences and the ends of sections: bars 79-83 where there is a chord every quaver.
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What is the opening 'motto' theme based on?
Perfect cadence (I-V-I) - functional opening.
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What is the metre?
3/8, yet it feels as though there is one dotted crotchet per bar. This gives a joyous feel to the rhythmic flow.
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Describe the rhythm
Continuous semiquavers in the melody (semiquavers in all parts: bar 38), rhythmic patterns are established at the start (typical of baroque), Hemiola (sense of 3-time to 2-time) in final bars of each ritornello: bars 79-80
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What creates syncopation?
Ties across bar lines: bars 43-46. This adds energy and direction.
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Discuss the textures
Homophonic: bars 1-3 (flute melody), contrapuntal: bars 13-22, monophonic: bars 84-86. The bottom 3 staves are closely linked and the bass line underpins the texture - sounds octave lower than written, only supports texture when ripieno plays.
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Describe the melody
Recognisable melodies that are consistently used, simply shaped, based on scales and broken chords, 5 principal motifs that are extended through: sequence: bars 13-18, repetition: bars 7-12 and inversion: bar 21 in flute 1.
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What occurs in the first 3 notes of the violin part?
Recurring interval of 3rd, which adds colour to the additional material in the ritornello.
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What are 'super melodies'?
As result of sequence, they move slowly across long passages: bars 13-23
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


Who are the concertos dedicated to?


The Duke of Brandenburg in 1721

Card 3


What was Bach's profession when he wrote the concertos?


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


What type of work is this piece from?


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


What is a Concerto grosso?


Preview of the front of card 5
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