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About this Piece

Although Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) are the best-known composers of the late Baroque and were famous enough in their day that their lives are fairly well documented, we know remarkably little about some of their respective works.

For example, we know that in 1721 Bach sent a manuscript with six concertos to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg. But a mass of conjecture follows: Bach probably composed the Brandenburg Concertos (or early versions of them) while working as Kapellmeister at the court of Anhalt-Cöthen; the Margrave may or may not have acknowledged the gift (there is no record that he did) and may or may not have used the music (the manuscript shows no obvious sign of use).

The Concerto No. 2 is unique in its instrumentation, using solo oboe, violin, recorder, and trumpet. At times it becomes a Concerto for Trumpet and Everyone Else, because the trumpet is louder than the other instruments.  It is also higher. A valveless trumpet plays the notes of the overtone series in the key in which it is pitched, which means it can play only one major scale, and only in its higher range, which explains why Baroque trumpet parts lie so high. None lies higher than the Second Brandenburg, which uses the trumpet in F, the smallest and highest version of the instrument. Nonetheless, the Concerto combines the soloists in pretty much every possible way, though the trumpet tends to be out of the way when the recorder needs to be in the forefront, and drops out of the minor-key slow movement altogether.

— Howard Posner