In the last third of the 18th century, because of the strong musical interests of the Saxon elector Friedrich August III and the general popularity of this genre, the keyboard concerto gained increased importance in the oeuvre of Dresden-based musicians. The most prolific composer in this respect was Christlieb Siegmund Binder. Born in Dresden in 1723, he entered the Dresden court chapel in 1751 as a pantaleon player. From 1764 until his death in 1789 he was employed as second court organist. Binder composed only instrumental music, the harpsichord featuring prominently either as solo or as obbligato instrument. The majority of his works are transmitted in manuscript form and today are preserved mostly in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden; among these are 33 of his altogether 34 surviving harpsichord concertos. They were written in the period roughly between 1755 and 1778. Only some of them were intended for performance at court. […] Structurally, Binder’s compositions tend to follow contemporary models, but it would be hard to allocate them to a specific regional genre tradition. Rather, they display a number of highly personal traits, forming a type of its own without any direct antecedents traceable around Dresden.
A particular group of works within Binder’s oeuvre are the eighteen so-called “elector’s concerts”, which he composed for Friedrich August III, presenting them in 1767. Already in 1763 the composer had – commissioned by the electress Maria Antonia Walpurgis – written Sechs Trios fürs Clavecin mit Flöte oder Violine for the future sovereign, to which he added a dedication emphasising the prince’s “extraordinary enjoyment of and talent for music, especially his admirable skills on the harpsichord”. Perhaps it was this decided affinity to keyboard instruments that prompted Binder – who apparently was acting without a specific commission – to present to the prince a collection of harpsichord concertos the number of which alluded to Friedrich August III’s approaching eighteenth birthday. Since this was the date when the prince would be installed in his office, Binder may well have attached to his gift hopes of professional advancement.
The concerto in e minor is the last of these “Kurfürsten-Konzerte” and of all the compositions in this collection calls for the smallest number of forces. Apart from the solo instruments it employs only a four-part string group, renouncing the addition of woodwinds and/or horns as featured in varying combinations in the other concertos. Particularly noteworthy is the third movement, a Fuga Allabreve, which elegantly combines contrapuntal techniques and concertato elements. The form of the piece, which is unusual in this genre, was also used by Johann Sebastian Bach in three of his Brandenburg concertos (BWV 1047, 1049, and 1050). It cannot be ruled out that Binder deliberately chose to follow the example of the Leipzig Thomaskantor as he was aware that the prince greatly esteemed the contrapuntal compositions of Bach and Jan Dismas Zelenka. At the same time the specific quality of the setting reflects the composer’s predilection for individual solutions far from fashionable trends and his capacity through combining the old and the new to arrive at surprisingly original results.
(Annegret Rosenmüller, translation by Stephanie Wollny)