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Concerto for violin, strings and basso continuo no. 2 in E major, BWV 1042

Johann Sebastian Bach
Length: 20'
Allegro assai

The E-major Violin Concerto is a creation of purest Bachian splendor. Opening with three aggressive chords, built on an E-major triad, that form the beginning of the main subject, the first movement unfolds in a fashion characteristic of the composer, but with some surprises. Two serious episodes in minor provide sharp contrast with the ebullience of the main material. And before the return to the main subject, the violin has a tiny solo followed by an unexpected pause before those three opening chords announce the final full exposition of the movement’s main substance.

The minor-keyed slow movement opens the floodgates of a kind of exquisitely controlled poignancy that is Bach’s inimitable version of Baroque romanticism. The form is chaconne-like, which is to say there is a persistent figure in the orchestra above which the violin, after entering on a long-held note, spins seemingly improvisatory strands of serene expressiveness. Bach at his most exalted.

The exuberant final movement is calculated to be give-and-take between orchestra and soloist – the group refrain appears five times with the soloist’s episodes in between. In the final solo episode Bach gives the soloist a brief but telling bit of virtuosity.