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JS Bach

Instrumental Works

Orchestral music

Bach's surviving works provide examples of concertos and suites, the two most important orchestral genres in the late Baroque. The composer prepared his final versions of the six Brandenburg concertos for presentation to the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721, although each concerto had perhaps had earlier performances (at least two -- Nos. 1 and 5 -- in different versions) in Weimar or Cöthen. Each of the six features a different combination of solo and tutti instruments; Bach's specific groupings are highly unusual for the late Baroque. Numbers 2, 4, and 5 may be classified as concerti grossi, since each has a separate concertino and ripieno group. However, one solo instrument in each of these concertos stands out above the others in the concertino (the trumpet, violin, and harpsichord in Nos. 2, 4, and 5, respectively), thereby creating in effect three solo concertos. Numbers 1, 3, and 6 are more in the nature of ripieno or chamber concertos, since Bach does not designate a single soloist or solo group to play against a larger accompanying ensemble. These latter three works feature concertato interactions among ever-changing groupings of instruments (two horns, three oboes, bassoon, and strings in No. 1; three each of violins, violas, and cellos in No. 3; and two violas and two gambas in No. 6). All six concertos use as a point of departure the Vivaldi three-movement plan, with ritornello designs in fast movements, although No. 1 concludes with several additional dances and No. 3 lacks a slow middle movement. Bach's treatment of the ritornello movements is quite varied, often incorporating extensive contrapuntal imitations.

The four orchestral suites are now throught to have orginated in Cöthen (Nos. 1 and 4) and Leipzig (Nos. 2 and 3). Each has a different instrumentation and a different combination of dances following an opening French overture. Number 2 features solo flute throughout; Nos. 3 and 4 have a more festive character, with three trumpets and timpani. 

Organ Music. Bach's early works, pre-Weimar, through his late works at Leipzig.

String Keyboard (clavier) music. Covers the Bach's significant pieces.

The Well-Tempered Clavier. The best known of Bach's clavier works.

Suites and Partitas. Bach's clavier suites and partitas.

Goldberg Variations. This aria with thirty variations is representative of Baroque theme and variations.
Solo music for other instruments. Compositions primarily from Bach's period in Cöthen including his cello suites.

Orchestral music. Examples of Baroque concertos and suites, including Air on the G String and the Brandenburg Concertos.

Inventions and Sinfonia. Two sets of fifteen contrapuntal pieces written for teaching purposes.
Canons. Bach's canonic variations.

Musical Offering. Based on a theme given to Bach by Frederick the Great.

Art of Fugue. Bach's final collection of fugues and canons.

Unfinished fugue. Last in the Art of Fugue, this fugue is formed from the letters of Bach's name.