by Anne Schuster Hunter
Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 5: it’s a blistering, bravo!, wave-your-cell-phones-in-the-air solo for harpsichord. Here, for one of the first times in history, the harpsichord shrugs off its role as the backbone of the orchestra to strut its soloistic stuff. Bach may well have composed it as a showpiece for himself, keyboard virtuoso that he was. It’s a star turn and not one to be attempted by the weak of heart.
“It’s flashy,” says Tempesta di Mare harpsichordist Adam Pearl. He’ll be playing no. 5 in Tempesta’s upcoming program, The Classics Club. “It’s really flashy. And while some of it is the kind of flashy that lies under the hand well and isn’t that difficult, some of it is the kind of flashy that’s just really, really hard. And there’s the cadenza, lovely and very strange and several minutes long. Just several minutes of the harpsichord showing off.”
Hear a soundclip of Adam performing the cadenza from Brandenburg V.
(Adam Pearl with Tempesta di Mare, 2009)
Known mostly to keyboard cognoscenti during the nineteenth century, Brandenburg no. 5 burst into modern repertory in a widely-admired 1935 recording for Columbia by the Busch Chamber Players with pianist Rudolf Serkin. Its performance history over the decades includes outings on piano and harpsichord with virtually every major orchestra, both period and modern.
Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 5: it’s a blistering, bravo!, wave-your-cell-phones-in-the-air solo for harpsichord. Here, for one of the first times in history, the harpsichord shrugs off its role as the backbone of the orchestra to strut its soloistic stuff.
“I really like doing this with Tempesta and a small group. It’s like driving a sports car. I can take the turns, you know,” says Adam Pearl. “I’m able to live dangerously.”
Note: although this is not the first time Pearl has played Brandenburg # 5 with Tempesta, it’s almost the first time. Brandenburg no. 5 appeared on Tempesta’s December 2009 series concert. But the weather was dreadful. A blizzard snowed out the first show and only an intrepid few traipsing through snowdrifts could make the second. For those who missed it, and for the rest of us who can’t wait to hear it again, here’s another chance. Charge up those cell phones!
A version of this article appeared in the November/December 2009 newsletter.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D, BWV 1050
Johann Sebastian Bach
Concerto for Strings in D, RV 121
Sinfonia No. 8 in G
8me Concert, “dans le goût théatrale”
Canon and Gigue
Concerto for Flute and Violin in E minor, TWV 43:e3
Georg Philipp Telemann