The Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) presented a collection of six instrumental works to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721. These very popular works are now known as The Brandenburg Concertos. It is thought that these works, which were re-arrangements of earlier material, were intended as a resumé for a new job in Hamburg. The attempt was unsuccessful. Indeed, it’s unclear what, if anything, the Margrave did with the presentation score once he received it. It is widely believed that the Margrave never bothered to perform these fabulous works, and perhaps never even examined the score. Thus these concertos might never have been performed in Bach’s lifetime. Each of these six concertos set a precedent in scoring using a wide range of orchestral instruments in, what for the time were, daring combinations.
There are many good versions of these concertos among the myriad to be found in the current catalogue but our overwhelming favourite comes from Rinaldo Alessandrini and his group Concerto Italiano. These are joyous and fresh performances that, in their straightforward but deeply musical way, will give great pleasure. Not everything is perfect, consider for example the difficult trumpet part in Concerto No. 2, but the virtues far outweigh any minor shortcomings.