Concerto for four harpsichords in A minor

Concerto for four harpsichords in A minor

BWV 1065 performed by Siebe Henstra, Menno van Delft, Pieter-Jan Belder, Tineke Steenbrink and the Netherlands Bach Society
Ottone, Utrecht

  • Menu
  • 1. [...]
  • 2. Largo
  • 3. Allegro

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

More and better

Fascinated by Vivaldi, Bach far outstrips his idol

Everyone has their own specialism. Whereas Bach excelled on the keyboard, Vivaldi ruled on the violin. Even more importantly, Vivaldi was the composer par excellence of the solo concerto. His music travelled throughout Europe and all the way to Bach’s home. Johann Sebastian Bach arranged various Vivaldi concertos (sometimes thoroughly) from opus 3, 4 and 7, for organ and harpsichord. He used one of them – the Concerto in B minor from L’estro armonico (opus 3) for four violins and orchestra – more or less in its entirety. But of course he gave it an exciting twist, as in Bach’s version the soloists play harpsichords and B minor changed to A minor.

Unfortunately, we do not know how the Concert for four harpsichords in A minor originated, although we can hazard a guess. If it was ‘born’ around 1730, Bach could have arranged the concerto for (or improvised it in) the Zimmermannsches Kaffeehaus, where he led the Leipziger Collegium Musicum. And with no fewer than five harpsichords at home, it could also have been a family affair, with father Bach sharing the stage with three of his children.

It was most probably an exciting challenge to expand four single solo lines into four complete keyboard parts for two hands; from four strings to dozens of them. Bach’s extra notes often supplement those of Vivaldi, but where the accompaniment permits, he likes to use them in dialogue. This is very clear in the closing phase of the first movement, as repeated chords explode in Bach’s hands in a crisscross of melodic motifs. The most impressive movement – and the most faithful to the original – is the second, which is full of broken chords that gain incredible power and richness when transposed from violin to harpsichord.

Concerto in A Minor
harpsichord works, orchestral works
around 1730
Special notes
Arrangement of Vivaldi's Concerto in B minor, opus 3 no. 10.

Extra videos

Siebe Henstra, Menno van Delft, Pieter-Jan Belder, Tineke Steenbrink

“It's us who get the most fun out of it, playing it together.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    7 October 2016
  • Recording date
    16 April 2016
  • Location
    Ottone, Utrecht
  • Harpsichord 1
    Titus Crijnen, 1992 after Johannes Ruckers, 1638
  • Harpsichord 2
    Bruce Kennedy, 1989 after Michael Mietke
  • Harpsichord 3
    Titus Crijnen, 2013 after Blanchet
  • Harpsichord 4
    Lutz Werum, 2003 after Johannes Ruckers
  • Harpsichordists
    Siebe Henstra (1), Menno van Delft (2), Pieter-Jan Belder (3), Tineke Steenbrink (4)
  • Violin 1
    Shunske Sato
  • Violin 2
    Sayuri Yamagata
  • Viola
    Staas Swierstra
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts
  • Double bass
    Margaret Urquhart
  • Film director and editor
    Lucas van Woerkum
  • Music recording producers
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Maarten van Rossem, Robert Berger, Richard Spierings
  • Camera assistant
    Luuk Walschout
  • Gaffer
    Zen Bloot
  • Interview
    Gijs Besseling, Jan Van den Bossche
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh

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