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Bach Brandenburg Concerto No.5

Analysis of the

Bach’s use of structure and tonality

First, we can look at the way in which the final movement of this concerto is organised, by using a simple tabular approach that shows the main thematic material and key centres.

The overall structure of the movement is fairly simple ternary form or ABA, arranged as follows:

Section A                     Bars 1-78        Begins in D major (tonic) and moves to A major

(dominant)

Section B                     Bars 79-232    Begins and ends in B minor (relative minor) with some

sections in F# minor and A major. Includes a reminder of the A section material.

Section A                     Bars 233-310  A repeat of the opening A section.

The themes are presented in fugal style, meaning that there are always several melodic lines weaving together and imitating each other, creating a polyphonic, contrapuntal texture. In a fugue, the main melodic idea is called the subject, and is usually followed by the same idea in another part, beginning on a different note and called the answer. The first part will normally continue to develop the subject while the answer is being played (called a countersubject) and other parts may come in with subjects or answers. This particular movement has many entries of the subject and answer, creating complex polyphony.

  • The piece is essentially monothematic in that it has one main theme, and all other themes are derived from it. Very often there are two thematic ideas at the same time.
  • Most of the melodic material is conjunct but the subject begins with a leap of a fourth.
  • There are many sequences.
  • As would be expected in Baroque music, there are ornaments – mainly trills in the harpsichord part.
  • There are a number of appoggiaturas in the B section.
  • The A sections are in D major, and the B section is in B minor. There are modulations to related keys, the most common of which are the two dominants – A major and F# minor.
  • The music has functional harmony (with plenty of perfect cadences) and is
  • There are frequent pedal notes.
  • The harmony uses mainly primary chords with some use of the supertonic and submediant chords (II and VI).
  • There are some suspensions to add colour and a little tension.
  • Though the time signature is 2/4 (simple duple) the almost continuous presence of triplets makes it feel more like 6/8 (compound duple).
  • The use of triplets and dotted rhythms come from the gigue dance style. Dotted rhythms should be played in ‘triplet style’.
  • There are semiquaver passages – particularly in the more showy harpsichord part. Remember that in many ways this is a harpsichord concerto!

 

  • The texture is polyphonic/contrapuntal – it relies on imitation in fugal
  • The subject is followed by an answer which starts on a different note – normally the dominant of the current key. Often the answers come in quick succession (stretto), creating an exciting sense of intensity.
  • The two hands of the harpsichord often work imitatively.
  • Much of the time there are four separate melodic lines (4-part counterpoint).

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