While serving at the Weimar court (1708-1717), Bach gained access to the Italian concerto style when the duke acquired copies of Vivaldi’s music. Assimilating Vivaldi’s melodic clarity and rhythmic style, Bach fused them with his own contrapuntal ingenuity when writing his mature instrumental works. In addition to composing his own concertos in the Italian format, he also made transcriptions of them for from one to four harpsichords (and some for organ). The Concerto for Violin and Oboe on this program went through this kind of life cycle. Scholars believe it to have been written in Cöthen, but the only version of it exists in a transcription for two harpsichords from Bach’s Leipzig period (1723-1750). Because the melody lines are identifiably characteristic as violin and oboe lines, the transcription has been reversed into a concerto for those two solo instruments.
Probable portrait of Vivaldi, c. 1723
Classical Oboe - photo by OboeCrack - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4768017