Concerto in C minor

Concerto in C minor

BWV 981 performed by Olga Pashchenko
at home in Utrecht, The Netherlands

  • Menu
  • 1. Adagio
  • 2. Vivace
  • 3. [...]
  • 4. Prestissimo

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Hot off the press

Bach arranges Italian fireworks as music for the ducal table.

There was great excitement in Weimar, when Prince Johann Ernst returned in 1713 from a fairly brief period studying law in Utrecht. In the Netherlands, the young nobleman, who was a competent violinist himself, was bowled over by a new musical trend: the concerto. He spent a great deal of money in Brussels and Amsterdam getting lots of music copied and bound, including Vivaldi’s opus 3 L’estro armonico. These collections inspired the compositions not only of His Highness himself, but also of his regular organist Johann Sebastian Bach and of other leading musicians at his splendid court.

Benedetto Marcello’s opus 1 from 1708 also featured among all this brand-new music. Bach’s enthusiasm is tangible in his arrangement of the string concerto no. 2 from the collection, which he probably created to liven up the dinners at the Saxe-Weimar home. But actually, it was no easy task to arrange the original. Marcello’s original concerto is much simpler than Bach’s arrangement – on paper at least. Melodies are ornamented, and sustained chords are filled out, so that a static keyboard can imitate the inherent movement of a stringed instrument.

It helps that the music is full of contrasts, which you can reproduce really well on a harpsichord with two manuals. It is particularly exciting in the third movement, and not just because of the harmonic maze. Like Marcello, Bach writes forte and piano alternately for each chord, which Olga Pashchenko solves by switching keyboard quickly. But is this really Bach? Yes and no, because even if the music doesn’t reach the heights of the master himself, it does demand a certain brilliance to capture the playing of twenty strings in two hands.

Concerto in C minor
harpsichord works
before 1715
Special notes
arrangement of the Concerto in E minor, opus 1 no. 2 by Marcello

Extra videos

Harpsichordist Olga Pashchenko

“"I think Bach really liked the Italian concerti, because that was the new fashion also of the period."”

Vocal texs




  • Release date
    16 September 2021
  • Recording date
    4 March 2018
  • Location
    Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • Harpsichordist
    Olga Pashchenko
  • Harpsichord
    Gerard Tuinman 2014 after Silbermann
  • Director and interview
    Jan Van den Bossche
  • Music recording, edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Gijs Besseling
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh
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