ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Santa Fe Pro Musica will close 2018 with Bach’s joyful Brandenburg Concertos at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Saturday.
The composer penned the six pieces in 1721, abounding with imaginative scoring, meticulous craftsmanship and dazzling invention.
“Bach was the chief musician of the court of Bavaria,” conductor Thomas O’Connor said. “He was looking beyond what would come next. The Brandenburgs were kind of audition pieces given to the margrave (mayor) of Brandenburg. He was looking for that next post. He was good, and he knew it.”
Each concerto is unique, written in the form of a concerto grosso with a small group of soloists set to strings.
“Each one has a different instrumentation,” O’Connor said. “No. 2 has the same group of instruments.”
No. 2 is a summation of the various styles occurring during the Baroque period. The sixth features two violins as the soloists in a very old form. No. 5 is the most advanced in a prototype of the keyboard concerto expanded by Mozart.
“It’s visionary,” O’Connor said, “in terms of where composing is going. No. 5 is pointing to the future, and then there’s everything in between.
“The themes are infectious,” he continued. “They are joyful. He took what the concerto represented and pushed it even further.”
Bach never got the position he sought. But he would go on to become the Thomaskantor (cantor at St. Thomas) in Leipzig. The full Brandenburg score sat in the margrave’s library until his death in 1734, when it was sold for about $24.
“Over the generations, the best of the best surfaces and comes to the top,” O’Connor said.