Orpheus Chamber Orchestra :
Johann Sebastian Bach, (1685-1750), Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048, (1721)
II. Adagio (Cadenza)
Christopher Theofanidis, (1967-), Muse, (2007)
I. brilliant, fiery
II. with a light touch, ornate
III. willful, deliberate
Johann Sebastian Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047, (1721)
I. [no tempo indicated]
III. Allegro assai
Soloists: Elizabeth Mann, flute, Roni Gal-Ed, oboe, Caleb Hudson, trumpet, Eric Wyrick, violin
Johann Sebastian Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050, (1721)
Soloists: Elizabeth Mann, flute, Areta Zhulla, violin, Paolo Bordignon, harpsichord
Johann Sebastian Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No 6 in B-flat Major, BWV 1051, (1721)
II. Adagio ma non tanto
Soloists: Dov Scheindlin, viola, Nardo Poy, viola
**The performance of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has been made possible by a generous grant from a Naumburg Orchestral Concerts Board member.**
WQXR HOST: Annie Bergen
The Brandenburg Concertos
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Born March 21, 1685 in Eisenach, Germany
Died July 28, 1750 in Leipzig, Germany
There are only three instances in Bach’s life where he made special copies of his compositions to be presented to nobility. The set of six Brandenburg Concertos (1721) was the first such instance, as they were presented to the Margrave of Brandenburg along with a letter from Bach asking for employment. A true staple of the Orpheus repertoire, the concertos exude a spirit of cheerfulness and joy, showcasing the many options available within the Baroque concerto form. From the spectacular harpsichord solo of the fifth concerto to the soaring trumpet passages of the second, this is music of amazing sophistication that remains a yardstick by which all great classical concertos are measured.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048 
Instead of the typical concerto grosso setup of a solo group within the orchestra, the Third Brandenburg Concerto treats all members of the ensemble as soloists, with independent lines for three violins, three violas and three cellos supported by the basso continuo accompaniment. The equitable distribution of the material is especially clear in the first movement, in which the primary motive—a three-note figure that drops to the lower neighbor note and then returns to the starting pitch—cascades through the different voices.
The central Adagio movement consists simply of two linking chords, sometimes elaborated by an improvised cadenza. The concerto closes with a barreling Allegro finale, its tempo and character matching the reeling gigues that conclude most of Bach’s dance suites.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050 
The Fifth Brandenburg Concerto features flute, violin and harpsichord as soloists. Such a trio was a common chamber music ensemble at the time, playing works known as trio sonatas. What is remarkable about this concerto is that the harpsichord functions as more than a supporting accompanist: It contributes whirlwind solo lines, and it issues a monster of a cadenza at the end of the first movement. This use of the harpsichord as a solo
instrument foreshadows the seminal keyboard concertos Bach later assembled in Leipzig.
The middle movement, labeled Affettuoso (“with feeling”), presents the soloists without the accompanying strings. Unlike a trio sonata, in which the harpsichord would typically have just a bass line with the right-hand harmonies filled in ad libitum, the harpsichordist’s right hand plays its own melodic line that intermingles with the flute and violin. In the finale, a fugue reinforces the equal footing of the voices. The violin and
flute take the first two entrances, and the harpsichord jumps in with the third and fourth voices of the fugue.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major, BWV 1051 
The Sixth Brandenburg Concerto limits its palette to the lower strings, including instruments from the viol family that have fallen out of fashion. With the violins absent, the two top lines go to instruments labeled viola da braccio, or viola “on the arm”— meaning violas in the modern sense, held like violins. Joining as a third solo voice is a cello, also from the violin family.
The accompanying lines, marked viola da gamba and violone, indicate bowed instruments that have frets tied to the fingerboard, and that are held upright (“da gamba” means “on the leg”). The inclusion of relatively simple viola da gamba parts may have been an attempt on Bach’s part to include his employer, Prince Leopold, who played the instrument reasonably well. In modern practice, two cellos and a contrabass substitute for
A distinguishing aspect of the first movement is its very slow harmonic motion in the tutti sections, with persistent pulses holding steady while the violas add decorative filigree. If this was one way to avoid straining a less confident viol player such as the prince, the middle movement solves the problem by eliminating the viols entirely. The violas spin out long lines that rise into the violin’s usual register, supported by walking cello lines and spacious accompaniment from the basso continuo. The finale is another festive dance in the style of a gigue, in which the soloists elaborate the main theme with
passages of flowing sixteenth-notes.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047 
For the Second Brandenburg Concerto, the distinctive solo group consists of trumpet, flute (substituting for the original recorder), oboe and violin. The trumpet Bach wrote for was a natural instrument without valves, meaning that the range was confined to the notes of the overtone series extending up from the instrument’s fundamental pitch. The low overtones are spaced widely, as in the typical intervals of bugle calls, so to play melodies with adjacent notes requires accessing the higher harmonics. Playing in this clarino range of the natural trumpet requires extreme control and strength, and it produces one of the most bright and penetrating of all musical colors, lending the sonic palette of the Second Brandenburg Concerto its particular brilliance.
The jubilant opening movement makes up for the mismatched strength of the solo instruments by separating the voices out for individual statements and contrapuntal sparring. The more delicate aspects of the flute, oboe and violin emerge in the middle Andante movement, in which a walking bass line supports polyphonic weavings. A heralding call from the trumpet announces the Allegro third movement, initiating a rowdy finale that serves as a bookend to the unbridled joy of the opening movement.Incidentally, the Second Brandenburg Concerto holds the unique distinction of being the work of human creation intended to demonstrate to anyone listening in deep space the presence of intelligent life on Earth. It is the first selection of music broadcasting from the Voyager Spacecraft, a vessel launched in 1977 that has since traveled beyond our solar system.
© 2017 Aaron Grad
ORPHEUS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
A standard-bearer of innovation and artistic excellence, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is one of the world’s foremost chamber orchestras. Julian Fifer and a group of like-minded young musicians determined to combine the intimacy and warmth of a chamber ensemble to the richness of an orchestra founded Orpheus in 1972. With 71 albums, including the Grammy Award-winning Shadow Dances: Stravinsky Miniatures, and 42 commissioned and premiered original works, Orpheus rotates musical leadership roles for each work and strives to perform diverse repertoire through collaboration and open dialogue.
Performing without a conductor, Orpheus presents an annual series at Carnegie Hall and tours extensively to major national and international venues. For the 2017-18 Season at Carnegie Hall Orpheus welcomes back Grammy-winning pianist André Watts for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9. The Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk makes his long-awaited Orpheus debut with Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, a fascinating product of Soviet Russia that embeds a core of yearning and struggle within a facade of whimsy and humor. In February, Orpheus welcomes Norway’s young trumpet sensation Tine Thing Helseth, featuring concertos by Vivaldi and Albinoni, as well as Mozart’s popular Symphony No. 40. The season closes with Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili performing Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto, a powerful yet vulnerable work created while the composer teetered between his life of exile in Europe and a return to his transformed homeland.
Orpheus has trademarked its signature mode of operation, the Orpheus Process™, an original method that places democracy at the center of artistic execution. It has been the focus of studies at Harvard and of leadership seminars at Morgan Stanley and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, among others. Two unique education and engagement programs, Access Orpheus and Orpheus Institute, aim to bring this approach to students of all ages.
Access Orpheus, Orpheus’ educational initiative, shares the orchestra’s collaborative music-making process with public school students from all five boroughs in New York City. Because of declining resources for arts education, many public schools do not have access to fulltime arts teachers to provide music instruction and exposure to art and culture. Access Orpheus helps to bridge this gap with in-class visits, attendance at working rehearsals, and free tickets for performances at Carnegie Hall.
Orpheus Institute brings the Orpheus Process™ and the orchestra’s musicians to select colleges, universities, conservatories, and businesses to work directly with leaders of tomorrow. Corporate employees and students in all fields of study learn from Orpheus’ creative process and in areas of collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and shared leadership. In the coming seasons, Orpheus will continue to share its leadership methods and performance practices as the ensemble provides audiences with the highest level of musicianship and programming.