Bach’s Triple Concerto in A Minor, BWV 1044: The Art of Recycling

J.S. Bach constructed the Concerto for Flute, Violin, and Harpsichord, BWV 1044 out of used parts.

The outer movements were adapted from the Prelude and Fugue in A minor for solo harpsichord, BWV 894. The second movement was based on the Adagio e dolce from the Trio Sonata for Organ in D minor, BWV 527. It is likely that these two works developed from early pieces by Bach that have been lost. All of this is a testament to the extent to which Bach and other Baroque composers wrote music for specific occasions. Bach created the Triple Concerto between 1729 and 1741 during the time he was involved with the coffeehouse concerts of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig.

The Triple Concerto sets up a vibrant dialogue between the three solo instruments and the ripieno of the full ensemble. Throughout the piece, it is the harpsichord which plays the starring role. The three solo voices mirror the scoring of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. From the opening bars, we experience a thrilling and playful weave of imitative counterpoint. The second movement moves into the intimate space of chamber music, featuring the three solo voices alone. Here, the flute and violin take turns, each engaging in a passionate duet with the harpsichord while the other provides a dancing obligato. The nineteenth century musicologist, Philipp Spitta, described the Triple Concerto as an arrangement “of really dazzling artistic quality and splendor.”

This 1993 recording features Daniel Stepner (violin), Christopher Krueger (flute), and John Gibbons (harpsichord) with the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra:

I. Allegro (no tempo indication was provided in the manuscript)

II. Adagio ma non tanto e dolce:

III. Alla breve:

The Original Seeds

Now, let’s listen to the music which provided the seeds for the Triple Concerto. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 894 offers a brilliant display of keyboard virtuosity. It is the kind of piece we can imagine Bach improvising:

Bach’s Organ Sonata No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527 begins with a solemn and melancholy adagio. The piece is a dialogue between three voices expressed in the right and left hands and in the bass. As a result, it is classified as a “trio sonata.”

Recordings

  • J.S. Bach: Concerto for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord in A Minor, BWV 1044, Daniel Stepner, Christopher Krueger, John Gibbons, Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, Andrew Parrott Amazon
  • J.S. Bach: Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 894, Trevor Pinnock Amazon
  • J.S. Bach: Organ Sonata No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527, John Butt Amazon

Featured Image: “Winter Landscape with Hunters,” Lucas van Uden

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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