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This concerto makes use of a popular chamber music ensemble of the time (flute, violin, and harpsichord), which Bach used on their own for the middle movement. It is believed that it was written in 1719, to show off a new harpsichord by Michael Mietke which Bach had brought back from Berlin for the C�then court. It is also thought that Bach wrote it for a competition at Dresden with the French composer and organist Louis Marchand; in the central movement, Bach uses one of Marchand's themes. Marchand fled before the competition could take place, apparently scared off in the face of Bach's great reputation of virtuosity and improvisation.
The concerto is well suited throughout to showing off the qualities of a fine harpsichord and the virtuosity of its player, but especially in the lengthy solo 'cadenza' to the first movement. It seems almost certain that Bach, considered a great organ and harpsichord virtuoso, was the harpsichord soloist at the premiere. Scholars have seen in this work the origins of the solo keyboard concerto; indeed it is said to be the first-ever example.
An earlier version, BWV 1050a, has innumerable small differences from its later cousin, but only two main ones: there is no part for cello, and there is a shorter and less elaborate harpsichord cadenza in the first movement. (The cello part in BWV 1050, when it differs from the violone part, doubles the left hand of the harpsichord.)
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