“THE FUNDAMENTAL MYSTERY OF THINGS” (SCHWEITZER): BACH’S BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS, VERY RARE COMPLETE SET OF FIRST EDITIONS
BACH, Johann Sebastian. Six Concertos composés par Jean Sebastien Bach publiés pour la première fois d'après les manuscrits origineaux… Leipzig: C.F. Peters, 1850. Six volumes and a single-sheet prospectus. Folio, modern three-quarter brown suede gilt. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $60,000.
First edition of Bach’s magnificent Brandenburg Concertos, his greatest orchestral works. Fully engraved. The complete set, exceptionally rare.
"The Brandenburg concertos are the purest products of Bach's polyphonic style. Neither on the organ nor on the clavier could he have worked out the architecture of a movement with such vitality… We really seem to see before us what the philosophy of all ages conceives as the fundamental mystery of things—that self-unfolding of the idea in which it creates its own opposite in order to overcome it, creates another, which again it overcomes, and so on until it finally returns to itself, having meanwhile traversed the whole of existence" (Schweitzer, I: 406). Although they are unquestionably among Bach's greatest works, the six Brandenburg Concertos shared the initial fate of most of his music, neglected and considered outmoded for a century after their composition. (His biographer Forkel, writing in 1802, knew of just 13 printed publications by Bach.) It may seem remarkable that Bach still needed "reviving" in the 20th century, but in 1911 Albert Schweitzer was still insisting that the Brandenburgs were indeed "suitable for our concert halls," and hoped that they would "become popular possessions in the same sense as the Beethoven symphonies are" (I: 408). This copy may well be the only available complete set; no set of first editions has been offered at auction for several decades. It includes the exceptionally rare single-sheet prospectus for the edition, printed in German and French. BWV 1046-1051 (Schmieder, 583). Owner stamp to title page of No. 3.
No. 1 is trimmed a little close with occasional loss of plate numbers. One leaf in both No. 2 and No. 4 with small tape repair. No. 5, title page with small paper repair, ink musical notations to one leaf. No. 6, with erased ink inscription and repair to verso of title page. A few neat marginal paper repairs throughout the set. Exceptionally good condition and exceptionally rare.