Concerto for three harpsichords in D minor

Concerto for three harpsichords in D minor

BWV 1063 performed by Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Siebe Henstra, Menno van Delft and the Netherlands Bach Society
Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • 1. [...]
  • 2. Alla Siciliana
  • 3. Allegro

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Playing with timbres

A trill for three right hands: of course that can never be exactly together.

In this Concerto in D minor, Bach plays with monophony and polyphony. It is a solo concerto, but then for three harpsichords. Sometimes all the instruments play the same melody, but then they go off on their own again. And even when they follow their own path, there are still always lines played by two, three or four hands together. When the harpsichordists are actually all playing something different, their instruments still sound like one big combined instrument.

In the middle movement, Lars Ulrik Mortensen has the harpsichordists switch to their lute register, which makes their instruments sound like lutes or mandolins. Combined with the rippling tempo prescribed by Bach (alla siciliana), they bring to mind strumming gondoliers. According to the eighteenth-century music theorist Johann Mattheson, a siciliana was thus a song ‘à la barquerole’ (i.e. boat music). Here, too, Bach plays with timbre. In the chorus, the harpsichordists all play exactly the same, yet you still hear that they are three instruments and not just one.

Bach would not be Bach if there was no hint of a fugue anywhere, and this expectation is met in the final movement. Independence is a main characteristic of a fugue. And indeed it is only in this final section that the second and third harpsichordists really get their own solo. However, in the closing bars of the concerto, Bach still makes the three musicians play exactly the same notes again. Almost in jest, there is even one long trill for the three right hands simultaneously – which of course can never be exactly together.

Concerto for three harpsichords in D minor
harpsichord works
around 1735-1745
Special notes
This was probably Bach's arrangement of an earlier concerto, although we do not know exactly which instrument it was written for.

Extra videos

Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Siebe Henstra, Menno van Delft

“This concerto is about a conversation between eight individuals.”

Vocal texs




  • Release date
    8 February 2019
  • Recording date
    15 October 2017
  • Location
    Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam
  • Harpsichord 1
    Bruce Kennedy, 1989 after Michael Mietke
  • Harpsichord 2
    Geert Karman after J.H. Gräbner, 1774
  • Harpsichord 3
    Knud Kauffman, 1977 after Hildebrandt
  • Direction
    Lars Ulrik Mortensen
  • Harpsichordists
    Lars Ulrik Mortensen (1), Siebe Henstra (2), Menno van Delft (3)
  • Violin 1
    Shunske Sato
  • Violin 2
    Anneke van der Haaften
  • Viola
    Deirdre Dowling
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts
  • Double bass
    James Munro
  • Director
    Lucas van Woerkum
  • Assistant director
    Stijn Berkhouwer
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Jochem Timmerman, Martin Struijf, Thijs Struick
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot
  • Set technique
    Dennis Hoek
  • Data handling
    Jesper Blok
  • Project manager nep
    Peter Ribbens
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Marco Meijdam
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
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