Iain Farrington

Pianist, organist, composer, arranger

Johann Sebastian Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 6

for two violas and piano

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) collected his 'Brandenburg' Concertos together in 1721, as a set of six distinct works. They were presented to Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, with a flattering dedication from Bach, possibly in the hope of being offered a job. It is not known whether the Margrave replied, and it is unlikely that he ever performed them.

The sixth concerto is originally for the lower strings (without violins) using 2 viole de braccio, 2 viole da gamba, cello and continuo. The viola da braccio is equivalent to the modern viola, while the gamba was an earlier instrument, a precursor to the modern cello. Much of the main thematic writing is for the two violas, so the concerto lends itself well to a two viola arrangement, with the keyboard taking the other parts. This arrangement consists of a new piano part that is neither a literal reduction of the accompanying parts, nor a completely free composition based on the continuo part. It maintains Bach's clarity while employing genuinely pianistic textures.

This arrangement has been recorded by Peter Mallinson, Matthias Wiesner (viola) and Evgenia Startseva (piano):

A Tale of Two Violas (Meridian Records)

Available to purchase from Aria Editions here