This is the first volume in a complete survey of Bach’s harpsichord concertos, recorded by La Risonanza in one-to-a-part practice performance. With his Fifth Brandenburg Concerto of 1719, Bach had created the first ever harpsichord concerto. From 1729, in Leipzig, the opportunity arose to continue this experiment: each week at Café Zimmermann he conducted his Collegium musicum in orchestral concerts that lasted around two hours. In the summer of 1733, he took delivery of “a new harpsichord, the like of which has not been heard before around here”. This magnificent instrument, which featured at the Zimmermann concerts, urgently called for concertos to be played by himself as soloist, and even more so his sons and students. Not only in Saxony but also well beyond, Bach was considered to be the absolute authority in all things harpsichord and organ; he thus had to make his own contribution to the emerging genre of the “clavier concerto”. The manuscript of his six harpsichord concertos BWV1052 to 1057 should therefore be understood as a repertoire collection for his Collegium musicum, and as a compositional manifesto.
Within the six concertos, each work takes on a specific function: The D minor concerto is the longest, most virtuosic and most Italianate of the collection. The stormy and sombre concerto is followed by the serene and cantabile E major concerto which, as Joshua Rifkin has convincingly argued, may well be based on a lost oboe concerto in E flat major. Whilst the concertos in D minor and E major are substantial works, the concertos in A major and F minor are far more compact. Both display noticeable influences of the galant style and were therefore probably not written before 1730.