I'm doing an assignment on a baroque period composition, and I chose Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor by J.S. Bach. One of the things I need to do is explain why it was actually composed. I'm having a bit of trouble figuring this out, since a lot of websites say that it's not known. So if it actually is totally unknown, what's a likely reason? What's a reason that Bach could have composed this for?

Just for reference, the question is: Introduce a piece of music. Give details about:

• Composer

• Title

• Where & why first performed

• Musical elements & instrumentation- Complete the table. What makes this piece typical of the era?

• Other interesting/ relevant information

The part I'm worried about is "where and why first performed". In my research already, I've found that Bach composed this piece while he was director of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig, and that he could have possibly composed it for himself to play the lead part.

But I'm not really sure. Any answers?

  • 4
    Take a look at what job Bach held (formally and informally) when the concerto was composed. This might give a hint.
    – ttw
    Mar 8, 2022 at 14:01
  • 1
    Welcome! 1) Could you edit to give the actual language of the instructions? I used to give research assignments to my students, and used one generic handout for all pieces. Some pieces have a much more specific reason "why" they're composed than others; e.g. Haydn's "Farewell Symphony" was "To demand better working conditions without actually getting fired." In this case, the "why" is much broader, like "for the same reason that somebody like Bach would write a piece like this at a time like this," i.e. says more about "the purposes of a late-baroque instrumental concerto." Mar 8, 2022 at 14:15
  • 3
    2) Please also edit to tell us what you've already found out in your research. This not only makes people feel a bit less like they're "doing your homework" for you, but also helps steer the answers away from stuff you already know, and helps reveal sources you haven't yet discovered. For one thing, take a step up from Wikipedia: if you have access to Grove Music Online, read the article on Bach, especially any mention it makes of this concerto (search for its BWV number, 1041), or about this time in his life. Mar 8, 2022 at 14:18
  • houstonsymphony.org/bach-violin-concerto-bwv-1041 other than no one knows for sure, that page gives a likely explanation. Can you switch your choice to The Musical Offering. That has a well known story. Mar 8, 2022 at 18:35
  • 1
    By the way, to CVers: I'm perplexed by two votes under "Basic analysis questions, such as "What key is this song in?" are off topic." To my mind, "why was this piece written" is in no way basic analysis, and if people are using this CV reason as a proxy for "Why didnja Google it yourself," the OP does show effort, and it's coincidence that this particular piece doesn't have a terribly exciting answer. And although I'm refraining from answering because I think I can give a better answer if we get the assignment's wording, I don't think it lacks sufficient details or clarity for an answer. Mar 8, 2022 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


It is not currently known why — or even when or where — Bach composed the A minor violin concerto (BWV 1041). (If the "why" were known, then the "when" and "where" also likely could be pinpointed. All that's currently and definitively known is that is was composed no later than 1730, because there are copies made in that year.)

In general, a concerto at that time would have been composed for entertainment given by royalty or perhaps another organization with the means to pay for its composition and performance. Consider this quotation from Georg Muffat in 1701, regarding concerti grossi (the immediate precursors to solo concerti):

These concertos [in his Ausserlesene…Instrumental-Music or, Selected…Instrumental Music], suited neither to the church (because of the ballet airs and airs of other sorts which they include) nor for dancing (because of other interwoven conceits, now slow and serious, now gay and nimble, and composed only for the express refreshment of the ear), may be performed most appropriately in connection with entertainments given by great princes and lords, for receptions of distinguished guests, and at state banquets, serenades, and assemblies of musical amateurs and virtuosi. (SOURCE: Brittanica)

Bach also composed at least one set of concertos — The Brandenburg Concertos — as a job application, looking to receive commissions from Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg. Submitting compositions in this way, or as thank-yous for patronage, would not have been uncommon.

  • @Cohen Also note, one difference between a concerto like this and a concerto grosso is that the concerto grosso gives solos to many instrumental parts over the course of the work, while this has only one solo instrument. In Bach's time this role was not quite the spotlight hog that it would be by the 19th century, but it is still a genre that "shows off" one particular performer. Mar 8, 2022 at 19:17

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