Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, Movement 3, Allegro

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 (1717)

Movement 3, Allegro

  • One bassoon part
  • m. 60-97 (29 total measures)
  • Range (Low D–d above the staff)
  • Bass clef only

Performance issues: Phrasing, Rhythm, Note patterns, Accidentals, Articulation

PDF of the excerpt

About the music: Bach is a Baroque composer valued for his keyboard compositions and sacred music. However, he also lived at the time when the typical instrumentation of the orchestra was being established and several of his instrumental works are significant contributions to that idiom. Brandenburg Concerto No.1 is from a set of six concerti written for the Margrave of Brandenburg. It is an unusual set because each of the six works is scored for a different instrumentation: this one is written for three oboes, two horns, bassoon, strings, and continuo (keyboard)–a combination close to the typical early orchestra. The work begins with the customary three movement tempo scheme (fast-slow-fast) common in early symphonies, but then it includes both a Minuet with Trio and a Polonaise with Trio. The appearance of dance movements relates this concerto to the suite, another multi-movement type common in the Baroque. (A discussion of the suite is included with the Orchestral Suite No. 1 post.) The Trio of the Minuet is of special interest to bassoonists because that portion of the work is scored for the two oboes and bassoon–an early double reed trio texture.

The student would profit from listening to recordings of this and other Baroque music for style and inflection. Since the music is straightforward rhythmically and limited in technical demands, it offers an opportunity to discuss some of the more subtle aspects of performance, e.g., Baroque articulation style, phrasing within the line, or matching string bowing styles. The bassoon usually functions as the bass voice in the texture, often doubling the low strings in the fully-voiced settings. In addition, convention recognizes bassoon as the preferred bass voice when oboe is the soprano voice; the double reed qualities work well in tandem. Other characteristics of Baroque music which are of particular concern to the bassoonist are: the unflagging rhythm of fast movements, the use of terraced dynamics, the single mood per movement, and the range of appropriate articulation styles.

About performing the excerpt: In this excerpt the student can practice an articulation style that is energetic but not rough, and detached but not short. Rhythmic subdivision will be necessary to move evenly between eighth notes and sixteenth notes without disturbing the inner pulse of the music. Measures 65-69 will require a relaxed embouchure to bring out the isolated low register notes effectively; drop the jaw for the low notes in the line. Measure 72 will probably require special attention due to the low register fluency it requires; use of the thumbs, especially in hand-to-hand combinations, creates a technical problem for the student. The repeated notes under the slur must be portamento in effect, a style that will be familiar to most intermediate players since it is discussed in the Weissenborn¹ early studies; these notes must match the cello-bass bowing style.

This excerpt was taken and used with permission from Ann Pesavento’s doctoral dissertation: Orchestral excerpts as developmental studies for the intermediate bassoonist: a collection of selected passages. D.A. diss, University of Northern Colorado, 1989. Pp. 360. OCLC#: 21892445. UMI 9016608.

¹Julius Weissenbom, Bassoon Studies (for Beginners), Op.8, No.1 (New York: Carl Fischer, 1940) p. 8.