Bach - Violin Concerto in A minor
Bach's concertos - they're essential listening. The Brandenburg Concertos, the keyboard concertos… they're all great, but what is it about the Violin Concerto in A minor that keeps people coming back for more?
A stately melody will get you so far, but when Bach composed his Violin Concerto in A minor around 1730 (although the exact dates are disputed) it was obvious he had something more lasting in mind than a simple technical exercise. Don't get him wrong - those little technical exercises are still in there - but this is an altogether more yearning and melancholy concerto than any of his others.
It's thought that Bach wrote the concerto while he was director of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig, but that doesn't mean he was a relentless academic. Give the second movement a listen in particular. That impossibly pretty solo violin line can't just be the sound of Bach giving himself a technical challenge - this is a glorious precursor to the soloist culture of the the classical period.
Try Isaac Stern's incredible version of that movement for size if you don't believe us.