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Brandenburg Concerto No.

5 Analysis | Charlie Weng


Discuss the composers use of structure and pitch in Bachs Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. Give bar
references/quotes/musical examples to support your answer.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a German composer and musician is often considered, and
certainly was one of, the great connoisseurs of the Baroque musical period. He was instrumental in
establishing and developing styles of using counterpoint, harmonic and motives. His works are
known for their technical demand and distinct style.
Bachs Brandenburg Concerto No.5 in D Major is written in the ritornelo form, with a theme that
recurs throughout with slight variation. This structure is characteristic of the baroque style. The
returning motifs make the music familiar and comfortable to listen to. The use of the baroque
orchestra provides a large possible pitch range as opposed to solo and smaller ensemble works, with
register ranging from the lowest register of the double bass to the high register of the flute. Thus
Bach has the ability to produce a thick texture that contributes to a fuller and grander collective
timbre. Though he makes full use of this, melodic material typically stays in the fairly comfortable
ranges of the instruments.

Fig.1

The piece begins with the main motif (fig.1) that will reappear throughout the rest of the piece. The
use of unison creates a single melodic line. Pitch is used to create tension, with the repetition of
notes combined with ascending arpeggio building up before release with the scalic descent. This
produces the effect of two miniphrases within the one-phrase motif.

Fig. 2

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Brandenburg Concerto No.5 Analysis | Charlie Weng


The opening chord of the piano emphasizes the first beat of the melody, consistent with the on-beat
Strings and keyboard accompany with mostly scalic movement; cello, double bass and keyboard
pitch movement contour mirroring that of viola, which produces a harmony and consequently
thicker texture, though the section overall retains a thin sound due to only 2 lines.

Fig. 3
The melodic lines continues (fig. 3) with the repeated notation that was present in the main motif,
moving in thirds, with the occasional use of a scalic passage to create interest with variation in pitch
movement. Accompaniment continues similarly to previous, playing scalic ascent in unison with
melody, which creates interest through thinning of texture, as well as mark the beginning of a new
section. The tonic ending note clearly concludes the section.

Fig. 4
With an introduction of a secondary motif (fig.4), movement of the melody to a higher register using
different instrumentation (flute) creates interest. Mostly descending pitch movement contrasts with
ascending of the previous section. The piano accompaniment becomes more prominent with the
introduction of the upper voice in creating more pitch variation to create a fuller sound.

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Brandenburg Concerto No.5 Analysis | Charlie Weng

Fig. 5
Use of antiphony and imitation (fig. 4 and 5) creates interest through thinner texture and changing
timbres that contrast with the unison of the main motif. The accompaniment continues with its
scalic movement, but the pedal point note adds another voice, changing the balance of texture
between melody and accompaniment.

Fig. 6

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Brandenburg Concerto No.5 Analysis | Charlie Weng

Fig. 7
Consistent with the Baroque ritornelo form, the theme returns in the ripieno violins (fig. 6), resulting
in a stronger sound that creates interest when contrasted with the original theme. The two phrases
of the theme are separated by a sequential flute melody which ends with the second phrase without
the repeated notes, creating anticipation for the identical repeat of it identical to the original except
for a modulation to A major to create interest.
Following a short antiphony section between flute and principal violin, a phrase reminiscent of the
scalic ascent and repeated notes of the theme appears with a modulation to B minor. The minor key
produces a different atmosphere of tension to develop the piece. The following antiphonic melody
between flute and violin imitates the melody after the original theme, showing the return of various
melodic ideas that contribute to its ritornelo form.

Fig. 8

Fig. 9
At bar 47 (fig. 9), the harpsichord plays a passage of scalic demisemiquaver runs in foreshadowing of
the cadenza section, before the principal violin takes the melodic role with a scalicly ascending
sequence over sustained harmony notes of the flute. These roles are then reversed to maintain

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Brandenburg Concerto No.5 Analysis | Charlie Weng


interest. After this section, the theme appears again in a short ritornelo played by the entirety of the
strings in the tonic, the large pitch range of the instruments and the original key create the feeling of
a completed cycle and comfortable familiarity. It is followed by a sequence similar to that of bar 7
(fig. 10)in the flutes middle register that contrasts with the lower-middle of the strings, leading into
a section similar to that following the original theme, though the antiphony in fig.5 is now more
straightly scalic, a quality reflected in the accompanying harpsichord.(fig. 11)

Fig. 10

Fig. 11
At this point, new material (fig. 12) appears in a modulation to F# minor, a section of extended
repetitive dialogue that creates a stability without so much happening. The harpsichord plays
harmonizing broken chords and violin and viola in the ripieno play a pedal point that harmonizes
along with the double bass reinforcement to produce calmness in contrast to the previous action.
The use of the full orchestra creates a thicker texture due to the large register in use.

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Brandenburg Concerto No.5 Analysis | Charlie Weng

Fig. 12
The following antiphony of descending broken triads is a movement away from the scalic
movements that dominate the melodies so far, creating interest. This leads into trilled semibreves
that move in contrary movement to produce intervals that thicken texture and create tension in
preparation for the return of the opening theme. (fig. 13)

Fig. 12

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Brandenburg Concerto No.5 Analysis | Charlie Weng


The modulation to the major key releases tension and together with the harmonic chords, large
pitch range creating a full, robust sound, and use of familiar material, the music returns to a
comfortable setting. In the following antiphony, the flute and violin parts are reversed, creating
interest with change. This is followed by a complete ritornelo in the tonic key.
After its development, a short ritornelo leads into the preparation for the harpsichord cadenza,
where the texture balance changes, light melodic interest in flute and violin antiphony keeping in the
upper register to bring out the rapid changes in register of harpsichord. The melody gradually
descends in pitch to change textural balance till a held harmony note at the middle range of the
harpsichord in order to smoothly transition into the solo harpsichord section.
The cadenza features a significantly thinned texture, a contrast that creates interest. As a whole, it is
strongly based on the dominant key of A major. It begins with 3 voices; the right-hand scalic melody,
left-hand moving in unison and a harmonizing pedal point that thickens texture in the right hand.
This is followed by a use of sequence while the melody is played in antiphony between two hands,
before being given to the left hand, where the lower register contrasts with the brighter right-hand
register. The melody (fig. 13) is also scalic, with octave leaps and steps that contrast with the
consistent accompanying broken chords, bringing out the melody.

Fig. 13
The right and left hand then swap roles, creating interest with the change of pitch register.
Accompaniment returns to the scale and pedal point. Melody now moves predominantly in scales
and steps without any large pitch leaps.The next sections introduction of new material consists of a
trilled harmonizing note over a scalic melody and pedal point notes. The melodys use of thirds
thickens texture and emphasizes the beats to contribute to the pieces moto perpetuo. This phrase is
immediately repeated a fourth higher (fig. 14).

Fig. 14

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Brandenburg Concerto No.5 Analysis | Charlie Weng

Fig. 15
At bar 181 (fig. 15), the intervals are discontinued and the hands identical pitch movement reduces
texture to monophony to create contrast and interest. As the melody continues, the pedal point
voice is lost and the thinner texture is apparent. The accompaniment returns to the broken chords
and the melody to scalic movement to produce a calmness that relieves built-up tension before
melodic line is transferred back to the right-hand, when both hands move in sequence (fig. 16), the
repetition contrasting with long phrases from before.

Fig. 16

Fig. 17
Approaching the end of the cadenza, the number of voices is reduced again, leaving a single voice
and thinnest texture possible. The scalic runs are similar to those that foreshadowed the cadenza
earlier in the piece. The melody moves on to broken chords (fig. 18), the lowest note used to
emphasize the beat to maintain moto perpetuo. The movement to the lower register creates a
darker tone colour and produces suspense together with the repeated pitch pattern.

Fig. 18

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Brandenburg Concerto No.5 Analysis | Charlie Weng


This repetition continues throughout the last 10 bars of the cadenza (fig. 19). Accompaniments pitch
movement becomes more limited to heighten tension, suspense and interest while the melody
contrasts with leaps.

Fig. 19
Finally, the cadenza finishes with the same melodic idea (fig. 20) we heard in bar 168 near the
beginning, to present the conclusion as a completed cycle, emphasized by the perfect cadence it
ends on. The return of 3 voices and larger pitch range and movement thickens texture to transition
into the thematic material that will conclude the movement.

Fig. 20
The movement concludes with a complete reinstatement of the opening ritornelo in its tonic key,
consistent with the ritornelo form in creating a feeling of familiarity that will bring a feeling of
completeness that is again emphasized by a perfect cadence (fig. 21) strengthened by the large pitch
range from use of the full Baroque orchestra (except flute).

Fig. 21

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