Bachs Brandenburgische Konzerte

Moving on from opera towards instrumental and orchestral compositions, involves a major shift and transition in the way in which one needs to view the structure and form of a musical piece. As Greenberg and Copland state, an opera utilizes the existence of words and speech in order to create transitions, and organize the entirety of the musical piece. Pure instrumental compositions however, do not have this luxury and therefore have other tools and elements which are applied in order to give pieces a musical structure. I choose to emphasize and mention the information within Greenbergs and Coplands books since I had no idea how to approach a purely instrumental musical piece.

The first movement of Bachs Brandenburgisches Konzert begins with a joyous and uptempo rhythm accompanied by flutes and violins which compose the melody. One element which stood out to me immediately is the baseline instrument which persists throughout the entirety of the first movement. While listening to this specific instrument, (which i do not know the name of) I was able to infer that the first movement possess a duple meter which is pretty much consistent throughout the whole piece.

Greenberg stated that four major components compose the structure of instrumental music, being repetition, variation, contrast, and development. Merely from listening to the first movement of Bachs Brandenburgisches Konzert, three of these four components are extremely prevalent.  First of, this movement contains repetition due to the presence of a ritornello at the 3:54 mark, which again reoccurs at 4:41 and at 8:54. Secondly, there is a notion of development within this movement of the piece, since a crescendo is used, which sets up and introduces the ritornello at the 3:54 mark and the 8:54 mark. The re occurrence of the ritornello at the 8:54 mark is also developed with a crescendo. However, this crescendo was created with the persistent baseline instrument which I referred to at the beginning of this response (the instrument of which I do not know the name of) and while this creschendo was developed, it was difficult to detect the meter simultaneous. This was an interesting observation for me personally, since the loss of the meter immediately caught my attention and made me pay attention to the development of the crescendo which got released with the re-occurrence of the ritornello. Lastly, the first movement also contains contrasts since the ritornellos are composed of instruments such as the violin while the instruments which are used to develop the crescendos do not incorporate the violin.

Greenberg mentioned the importance of form within his text, emphasizing that “the art of the Baroque is, at a structural level, about control, about logic. about discipline” (Greenberg p. 101). This statement holds completely true in regards to my listening experience with this piece, due to the persistence of the underlying baseline instrument!

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