200 YEARS – Bach / Stravinsky

200 years  is a project that shows two compositions written during completely different periods in time. It builds a bridge from the Baroque era to the 20th century, from the harpsichord to the modern piano, from Bach to Stravinsky.

Historically, the Concerto has its origin in the late 16th century Italian Renaissance but it flourished in the Baroque era, appearing in various forms during its four-century long history. Initially a Concerto (from concertare meaning concert, harmony, bring into agreement) embodied a composition for a vocal or instrumental ensemble showing contrast and opposition between different voices or instruments.

During the Baroque era the concerto evolved almost exclusively into instrumental works for one or more soloists with string or orchestra accompaniment. In 1718-1719 Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the Brandenburg Concertos- all six concertos for different instrumental ensembles. A project that, for its time, exhausted all the variations possible for a concerto. In Leipzig, from 1729 to1740, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote several concertos for harpsichord(s) with string accompaniment. Music historians state that Bach very likely wanted to play those concertos together with his sons and provide them an opportunity to perform as soloists.

Bach’s C Major Concerto for two pianos is presumedly the only concerto intended as a work for two pianos without accompaniment (the orchestral part is presumed to have been added later).

Igor Stravinsky wrote his Concerto Per Due Pianoforti Soli two hundred years later. Today it is considered one of his major instrumental works. Stravinsky’s desire to explore the piano as a solo instrument made him write a composition which he would be able to perform together with his son Soulima Stravinsky who was about to become a successful concert pianist himself. After writing the first movement Con moto, he found himself unable to finish the work. Several years later in 1935, he completed and premiered the Concerto in Paris after receiving a double piano built for him by Pleyel.

Both Bach’s and Stravinsky’s concertos can be considered typical concertos, but written two hundred years apart. Interestingly they both end with a Fugue and are the only two concertos written per due pianoforti soli, or for two pianos only that we know today.

Stravinsky meticulously studied Bach’s music. And, as time progressed, it is apparent that Stravinsky became more heavily influenced by Baroque music when examining the various phases of his life. Speaking about his compositional style (1924), Stravinsky stated, “I have gone back many centuries and started again from the beginning, on a historical basis. What I write today has its roots in the style and technique of Palestrina and Bach. I have become a contrapuntist through and through.”

Rhythmicity, architecture, counterpoint- with these terms one is already quite close to Stravinsky. And Bach, even more so.

Johann Sebastian Bach:
Concerto for two pianos C major BWV1061

1. Allegro

2. Adagie ovvero Largo

3. Fuga

Igor Stravinsky:
Concerto per due pianoforti soli

1. Con moto

2. Notturno

3. Quattro variazioni

4. Preludio e fuga