Category : Blog Archive Mar 24th, 2009

Allan Kozinn at the NYT reviews Richard Egarr’s performance of all six Brandenburg concerti. He spends a good bit of the review contemplating the mysterious two-chord slow movement of the third concerto–something that has been on my mind since I performed the work myself this past weekend (and wrote program notes about it a few weeks ago). Egarr’s rationale for playing the movement unadorned is a numerological argument I’ve never heard before:

Mr. Egarr rejects the idea of interpolating a slow movement from another work, and he dislikes the more common practice of making the movement an expansive cadenza. Instead he has the ensemble play the chords slowly, and he traces their shape with a gently arpeggiated harpsichord flourish.

Mr. Egarr makes that approach sound elegant. But if you find it unconvincing, blame his susceptibility to a numerological argument that proposes that every aspect of the Third “Brandenburg” — the number of instrumental lines, the number of bars in each movement — is built around multiples of three and seven.

Well, almost: the third movement is only 48 bars. Adding the single-bar Adagio makes it 49, or seven sevens. Expanding the Adagio, this view holds, would destroy that symmetry.