"It is very unusual that a three-movement Baroque concerto should suddenly give way to a four-movement piece, as is the case here. In my opinion, this has medical reasons: the audiences of the Baroque era were much more passionate listeners, they were more deeply moved by what they heard, and I think that Bach wanted to calm the listener with a little suite after this exciting third movement. The First Brandenburg Concerto is the one with the largest orchestral scoring, and the orchestra shows up a few peculiarities with respect to the instruments used: it is one of the first pieces in which the bassoon is treated as a solo instrument. In the first movement the hunting horns (immediately recognizable as such) are introduced into art music, and this movement is one of Bach's most refined little pieces altogether. Then he uses a 'violino piccolo', a little violin – not to be confused with a child's violin – which sounds a lot cheekier than its big sister." (Nikolaus Harnoncourt)
Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, named after their dedicatee the Margrave Christian Ludwig von Brandenburg, have been part of Nikolaus Harnoncourt's permanent repertoire ever since he founded his Concentus musicus ensemble. The ensemble has recorded them and played them on their tours throughout the world.
The impulse which led Harnoncourt to establish the Concentus musicus in 1953 was his dissatisfaction with the traditional way of interpreting early music. The uncommon and sometimes radically different style of the Concentus musicus, as well as its exclusive use of historical instruments, secured the ensemble its international reputation. Harnoncourt introduces the concerto with a moving and fascinating analysis of the piece. Interesting musical examples, which Harnoncourt inserts in a humorous and relaxed manner, make this introduction an informative and entertaining guide to this masterpiece of music. The production was filmed in the historical Baroque monastery library in Wiblingen, Germany.
By Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Concentus Musicus Wien