28th April – Double Violin Concerto

Bach’s Concerto For Two Violins in D minor is one of the most famous pieces of music from the Baroque Period of music. It was written between 1717 and 1723.

In this piece of music, there are two solo violinists, showing off their skills with parts that only they play, and a small accompanying orchestra of string players (violins, violas, cellos and double basses) and often a harpsichord.

There are three movements:

1. Vivace (meaning ‘lively and brisk’): starting at 2:44 in the video below

2. Largo ma non tanto (meaning ‘slow and dignified but not too much’): starting at 6:57

3. Allegro (meaning ‘at a brisk speed’): starting at 14:12

This piece contains a lot of counterpoint – this means the different musical lines sound very independent from each other, twisting up and down at different times and with different rhythms.

There are also some fugal passages, where one part plays a tune, then someone else plays it a few bars later (often starting on a different note). This reminds me of songs like Frere Jacques and London’s Burning, which you can sing as rounds with everyone starting the song from the beginning but not all at the same time. You can hear a fugue-like tune in this piece at the very beginning. The tune starts at 2:46, played by the two soloists (it starts with the first few notes of a D minor scale). Then at 2:58 you can hear the same tune played by some violinists sitting in the orchestra, but they start the tune a bit higher (on the A string) this time. You might need to listen to this bit a few times to learn the tune and recognise it when it gets repeated!

Baroque Music is very old – it’s some of the earliest music that is played by orchestras today. It contains a lot of the basic building blocks of music, like scales and arpeggios. Can you hear any?

The beat is usually very strict in this type of music. Can you clap the main crotchet beat? Don’t let the quick semiquavers put you off! When you clap the beat it should feel like you are marching along very comfortably, not skipping or running.

Can you spot the harpsichord? It looks a lot like a piano, but a very fancy one! Can you see the pretty patterns on it? These don’t have a musical purpose – it was just fashionable in 1700s when these instruments were made! What colour are the keys? Do they look like piano keys?

This article was written by alison