Violin concerto in E major

Violin concerto in E major

BWV 1042 performed by Shunske Sato
and the Netherlands Bach Society
Felix Meritis, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • 1. Allegro
  • 2. Adagio
  • 3. Allegro assai

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Vivaldi in Thüringen

A Venetian concerto with an un-Italian twist

With a triad, Bach lets off a festive opening volley. It could hardly be simpler. He could almost have pinched the catchy motif from his Italian colleague Vivaldi, who was seven years his senior and with whose music he was familiar from Weimar. The Concerto in E major is difficult to date. As so often, we are missing any sources written by Bach himself. Like the 'Brandenburg' concertos, it probably originates from Köthen, a vibrant court where the tone was set by instrumental music. But it could also date from Leipzig, where from 1730 Bach led the local Collegium Musicum, with whom he performed a lot of secular music in the famous Café Zimmermann. Whatever the case may be, we can assume that the scanty couple of surviving violin concertos are merely the tip of the iceberg, and that numerous other orchestral works have been lost or still await discovery.

Bach based the piece on the Venetian concerto model in three movements, but gave it his own twist, as each movement has an un-Italian characteristic. For instance, the Allegro was given an ABA structure, like most of the Baroque arias, whereby the first section returns with great embellishment after a contrasting second section. And like in many of Bach’s arias, the soloist frees himself from the ensemble ‘before his turn’, in brief anticipation of his solo.

Whereas Vivaldi, for example, sometimes restricts his slow sections to a few chords, Bach wrote a long-drawn-out ostinato, with intricate musings by the violin and a free-flowing, melancholy solo melody above a repetitive bass motif. Shunske Sato talks in depth about his experience of this section in the interview.

The final movement resumes the exuberant mood of the opening to the rhythm of a passepied – a three-part Baroque dance. It is a refrain with couplets, a rondo, which is a form seldom seen in concertos. It is perfectly proportioned. The refrain and the couplets consist of sixteen bars, except for the last couplet, which is twice as long. Bach uses this extra space to follow a remote harmonic path, repeating the catchy theme once again, after a breathtaking gap.

Concerto in E major
orchestral works
before 1730?
Köthen or Leipzig
Special notes
Bach arranged this concerto after 1733 for harpsichord, strings and continuo (BWV 1054).

With support from

Bach fund of the Netherlands Bach Society, Felix Meritis

Extra videos

Violinist Shunske Sato

“The middle movement is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    25 December 2015
  • Recording date
    19 May 2015
  • Location
    Felix Meritis, Amsterdam
  • Violin and direction
    Shunske Sato
  • Violin 1
    Lucia Giraudo
  • Violin 2
    Pieter Affourtit
  • Viola
    Anneke van Haaften
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts
  • Double bass
    James Munro
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Film director and editor
    Lucas van Woerkum
  • Music recording producers
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Camera
    Robert Berger, Simon Aarden, Maarten van Rossem
  • Gaffer
    Zen Bloot, Patrick Galvin
  • Camera assistant
    Uriel Matahelumual
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Producer concert
    Erik van Lith
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • With support from
    Bach fund of the Netherlands Bach Society, Felix Meritis

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