The harpsichord concertos, BWV 1052–1065, are concertos for harpsichord, strings and continuo by Johann Sebastian Bach. There are seven complete concertos for a single harpsichord (BWV 1052–1058), three concertos for two harpsichords (BWV 1060–1062), two concertos for three harpsichords (BWV 1063 and 1064), and one concerto for four harpsichords (BWV 1065). Two other concertos include solo harpsichord parts: the concerto BWV 1044, which has solo parts for harpsichord, violin and flute, and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, with the same scoring. In addition there is a nine-bar concerto fragment for harpsichord (BWV 1059) which adds an oboe to the strings and continuo.
Most of Bach's harpsichord concertos (with the exception of the 5th Brandenburg Concerto) are thought to be arrangements made from earlier concertos for melodic instruments probably written in Köthen. In many cases, only the harpsichord version has survived. They are among the first concertos for keyboard instrument ever written.
The concertos for one harpsichord, BWV 1052–1059, survive in an autograph score (now in the Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Mus. ms. Bach P 234); based on the paper's watermarks and the handwriting, scholars have dated it to 1738 or possibly 1739. The manuscript is not a "fair copy" but a "first draft containing an extraordinary number of corrections to certain passages."  Two theories have been proposed for why Bach created this manuscript. One centers on his work as director of the Collegium musicum in Leipzig, a student musical society, founded by Georg Philipp Telemann in 1703, which often gave performances at Zimmermann's coffee house; Bach served as director from spring 1729 to summer 1737, then again from October 2, 1739 though 1740 or 1741. This theory holds that the manuscript was intended for concerts given when Bach resumed leadership of the Collegium musicum in 1739; evidence for the theory is that the manuscript remained in Leipzig. However, Peter Wollny (director of the Bach Archive in Leipzig) argues that "the carefully laid-out fair copy does not quite fit into the context of that student ensemble, which did not enjoy much in the way of formal organization." Wollny prefers an alternate theory, arguing that "it seems more plausible to link [the autograph manuscript] to the visit we know Bach made to Dresden in May 1738, in the course of which he certainly performed at court or in private aristocratic circles."
As for the concertos for multiple harpsichords, there is less doubt that these date from Bach's first period directing the Collegium musicum in Leipzig; the parts from the Concerto for four harpsichords BWV 1065 (Bach's arrangement of the Concerto for Four Violins, RV 580, by Antonio Vivaldi ), have been dated to around 1730. The first biographer of Bach, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, reported in 1802 that performance of the multiple-harpsichord concertos involved his sons C. P. E. Bach and W. F. Bach (both excellent keyboard players, and both informants to Forkel), who were living at home until 1733 and 1734, respectively, which would mean that these concertos were completed before their departure. It is possible that Johann Ludwig Krebs, who studied with Bach until 1735, also played harpsichord in the Collegium musicum.
Bach's harpsichord concertos were, until recently, often underestimated by scholars, who did not have the convenience of hearing the benefits that historically informed performance has brought to works such as these.[speculation?] For instance Albert Schweitzer believed "[t]he transcriptions have often been prepared with almost unbelievable cursoriness and carelessness. Either time was pressing or he was bored by the matter." Recent research has demonstrated quite the reverse to be true; he transferred solo parts to the harpsichord with typical skill and variety. Bach's interest in the harpsichord concerto form can be inferred[original research?] from the fact that he arranged every suitable melody-instrument concerto as a harpsichord concerto, and while the harpsichord versions have been preserved the same is not true of the melody-instrument versions.