Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 : Work information

Johann Sebastian Bach ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Karl Trotzmuller (Recorder), Paul Angerer (Viola), Chamber Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, Felix Prohaska (Conductor)

This work

Work name
Brandenburg Concerto No. 4
Work number
BWV 1049
1720-01-01 02:00:00

This recording

Seymour Solomon
Recording date
1956-03-01 01:00:00

Track listing

  • Allegro 7:20 min
  • Andante 3:53 min
  • Presto 5:04 min


The set of six concertos that J S Bach dedicated to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg on 24 March 1721 were likely written over a long period and merely assembled on this date. They differ markedly in style and instrumentation, exploring and developing the prevailing concerto grosso and solo concerto genres.

The Fourth Brandenburg Concerto somehow manages to be both a solo violin concerto, and a concerto grosso with a solo group of violin and two recorders. It was probably one of the last of the set to be completed, most likely at Cothen in 1720.

The famous, and elegantly poised, first movement features some extended passagework for the solo violin over a static bass line, and adds a dash of virtuosic fireworks. A serious Andante and a studious Presto follow, ending the concerto with terrific style and aplomb.

The Composers

Johann Sebastian Bach

One of the greatest composers in history, Johann Sebastian Bach (father of C.P.E, J. C. and W. F. Bach) was by far the most significant member of the Bach dynasty of musicians.

He outshone his forebears and contemporaries, but did not always receive the respect he deserved in his own lifetime. After a brief engagement as a violinist in the court of Weimar, Bach became organist at the Neukirche in Arnstadt. In June 1707 he moved to St. Blasius, Mühlhausen, and married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. In 1708 he was appointed court organist in Weimar where he composed most of his works for organ. In 1717, he was appointed Court Kapellmeister to the young Prince Leopold at Cöthen, but was refused permission to leave Weimar. The Duke only allowed Bach to go after holding him prisoner for nearly a month.

While at Weimar, Bach wrote his violin concertos and the six Brandenburg Concertos, as well as several suites, sonatas and keyboard works, including several, such as the Inventions and Book I of the 48 Preludes and Fugues (The Well-tempered Clavier). In 1720 Maria Barbara died, and the next year Bach married Anna Magdalena Wilcke. Bach resigned the post in Weimar in 1723 to become cantor at St. Thomas’ School in Leipzig where he was responsible for music in the four main churches of the city. Here he wrote the Magnificat and the St. John and St. Matthew Passions, as well as a large quantity of other church music. In Leipzig he eventually took charge of the University “Collegium Musicum” and occupied himself with the collection and publication of many of his earlier compositions.

Over the years that followed, Bach’s interest in composing church music declined somewhat, and he took to writing more keyboard music and cantatas. As his eyesight began to fail, he underwent operations to try and correct the problem, and these may have weakened him in his old age. He died at age 65, having fathered a total of 20 children with his two wives. Despite widespread neglect for almost a century after his death, Bach is now regarded as one of the greatest of all composers and is still an inexhaustible source of inspiration for musicians. Bach’s compositions are catalogued by means of the prefix BWV (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis) and a numbering system which is generally accepted for convenience of reference.

Related Composers: Pachelbel, Telemann, Handel, Couperin

Also influenced: Mendelssohn, Brahms, Stravinsky, Hindemith