It would be nice for us all if there were always a coherent one-to-one correspondence between the biographical facts of a composer's life and the music composed -- happy music, say, at the birth of children, grave music written during the deaths of loved ones.
It's always complicated, to say the least. But if Johann Sebastian Bach's "Brandenburg Concertos" have seemed like great masterworks ever since they were retrieved from the estate of the Margrave of Brandenburg who commissioned them (where they were for sale at a pittance), there's, probably, a very good reason for it.
Bach was 35 when he sent them off to the Margrave. His first wife had just died. The Margrave was a collector of concerto manuscripts, not necessarily Bach's kind of music aficionado, and there was a good chance he'd never, in fact, hear them (which seems to have been the case, since they required musical forces larger than he employed). Bach, then, was writing them under deceptively "pure" circumstances. They lay there, then, unperformed for eons until they were discovered and eventually called by Albert Schweitzer "the purest products of Bach's polyphonic style."
They are, heard now, virtually impossible to dislike. They've long deserved to be among the most popular works in the whole Bach canon.
In a nice new wrinkle in Brandenburg performance, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will perform the Complete Brandenburg Cycle with soloists from within the orchestra with 100 additional seats added at the front for greater intimacy. The first performance under Michael Ludwig will be at 10:30 a.m. next Friday in Kleinhans Music Hall and the second at 8 p.m. Dec. 1. For more information, call 885-5000 or visit www.bpo.org.
-- Jeff Simon