J.S. Bach’s Italian Concerto

  • 09/12/2013

The Italian Concerto (“Concerto nach Italienischem Gusto”: Concerto after the Italian taste, or Concerto in the Italian style) is a three-movement concerto for harpsichord solo composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. It was first published in 1735 as part of the second volume of Bach’s Clavierübung (Keyboard practice), together with the French Overture BWV 831. Both pieces are Bach’s interpretations of popular musical forms of the day.

An Italian concerto relies upon contrasts between the full orchestra and a small group of instruments which act as soloists. Bach imitates this effect on the two-manual harpsichord by using the lower (“forte”) manual on the harpsichord as the “full orchestra” and the upper (“piano”) manual as the “soloists”. The right hand generally takes the role of soloists, with the left accompanying and occasionally adding some more melodic material. In fact, this is one of the few works by Bach which specifically require a 2-manual harpsichord.

Played here is the first movement in F major. Although it lacks a tempo marking, it is always played Allegro (fast). It is composed in ritornello style, meaning a theme particular to the movement returns time and again.
Recorded live in Paris, France, 2013.


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