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Johann Sebastian Bach:
What's a Concerto?

A concerto is a piece of music in which one or more solo instruments get to shine in front of an orchestra. A concerto can be written for any instrument. A "concerto grosso" is a concerto for two groups of instruments -- a smaller group of soloists alternating with a larger group.

Music heard in this episode:
JS Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2
Torelli: Concerto
Vivaldi: Four Seasons Autumn
Hummel: Trumpet Concerto
Haydn: Cello Concerto
Vaughan Williams: Tuba Concerto
James Macmillan: Veni, Veni Emanuel
Mozart: Flute and Harp Concerto
Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1
Handel: Concerto Grosso Op. 6 No. 1 in C Major
JS Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2

Other shows about Johann Sebastian Bach:
About Johann Sebastian Bach
The Sons of Johann Sebastian Bach
The Story of the Brandenburg Concertos

Download this month's activity sheet

About Johann Sebastian Bach
3/21/1685 - 7/28/1750
Born in Germany

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, where his father was a town musician. Bach came from a long line of composers - over 300 years' worth of Bachs all worked as professional musicians. By the time Johann was 10, both his parents had died, so he was brought up by his older brother, who was a church organist. Johann became a very good organist, too.

Johann Sebastian Bach held three major jobs in his life: first he worked for a duke, then for a prince, and finally, he became director of music at the St. Thomas Church and School in Leipzig, Germany. Even though his job in Leipzig kept him very busy, in his spare time, Bach conducted a group of musicians who liked to get together to perform at a local coffee house.

During his lifetime, people thought of Bach as just an ordinary working musician. No one really knew much about his music until 100 years after his death, when another composer, Felix Mendelssohn, conducted a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion.

Bach is now seen as one of the greatest geniuses in music history. He wrote all kinds of music -- for organ and other keyboard instruments, orchestras, choirs, and concertos for many different instrumental combinations.

See other composers born in Germany


This Week's Quiz:

1. Which composer wrote over 500 concertos?

Giuseppe Torelli

Arcangelo Corelli

Antonio Vivaldi

Johann Sebastian Bach

2.The solo parts of a concerto grosso are played by

a group of soloists




3. Which composer gets most of the credit for developing the concerto?

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Johann Sebastian Bach

Giuseppi Torelli

George Frederick Handel


Johann Sebastian Bach
Brandenburg Concerto # 2

Composed in 1721
Performed by Capella Istropolitana
Bohdan Warchal, conductor

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