In a strange twist of fate, the Brandenburg Concertos have come to be named after a man who didn’t especially want them, never heard them, and may not have liked them had he done so. Johann Sebastian Bach met Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg in 1719 during his tenure as music director at the court of Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, who was the young prince responsible for signing up some of the musicians who were previously employed by Frederick William I. Bach worked at Anhalt-Cöthen from 1717 to 1723, and he and Leopold developed an excellent working relationship there. The Prince enjoyed travel, fine art and, above all, music, and he respected and encouraged Bach in his work, even occasionally participating in the court concerts as violinist, viola da gambist or harpsichordist. Provided by Leopold with an excellent set of instruments and a group of fine players (and the second-highest salary of any of his court employees), Bach enjoyed a fruitful period at Cöthen. Many of his greatest works for keyboard, chamber ensembles and orchestra date from those years.Early in 1719 Leopold sent Bach to Berlin to finalise arrangements for the purchase of a new harpsichord, a large two-manual model made by Michael Mietke who was the instrument builder to the royal court. While in Berlin Bach played for Christian Ludwig, who was so taken with his music that he asked him to send some of his compositions for his library. Bach lost an infant son a few months later however, in 1720 his wife Maria Barbara died, and he rejected an offer to become organist at the Jacobkirche in Hamburg, so it was more than two years before he fulfilled Brandenburg’s request. By 1721, however, Leopold had become engaged to marry a woman who was horrified by the amount of money channelled to musical entertainment at the court. Bach seems to have realised that when she moved in, he would probably be moved out, so he began looking for a more secure position. He remembered the interest the Margrave Brandenburg had shown in his music, and thought it a good time to approach him again. He therefore picked six of the finest concertos he had written, copied them out meticulously, had them bound into a sumptuous volume (at considerable cost) and sent them to Christian Ludwig.Download booklet
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