BACH, J.S.: Clavierubung III, Vol. 1 (USA RMC Classical Music/ Wolfgang Rubsam) (Naxos: 8.550929)
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Jahann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Clavierübung III Vol. 1
Prelude in E Flat Major, BWV 552
Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, BWV 669
Christe, aller Welt Trost, BWV 670
Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist, BWV 671
Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit (alio modo), BWV 672
Christe, aller Welt Trost, BWV 673
Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist, BWV 674
Allein Gott in der Hoh' sei Ehr', BWV 675
Allein Gott in der Hoh' sei Ehr', BWV 676
Fughetta super: Allein Gott in der Hoh' sei Ehr', BWV 677
Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot', BWV 678
Fughetta super: Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot', BWV 679
Wir glauben all' an einen Gott, BWV 680
Fughetta super: Wir glauben all' an einen Gott, BWV 681
Johann Sebastian Bach was a member of a family that had for generations been occupied in music. His sons were to continue the tradition, providing the foundation of a new style of music that prevailed in the later part of the eighteenth century. Johann Sebastian Bach himself represented the end of an age, the culmination of the Baroque in a magnificent synthesis of Italian melodic invention, French rhythmic dance forms and German contrapuntal mastery.
Born in Eisenach in 1685, Bach was educated largely by his eldest brother, after the early death of his parents. At the age of eighteen he embarked on his career as a musician, serving first as a court musician at Weimar, before appointment as organist at Arnstadt. Four years later he moved to Mühlhausen as organist and the following year became organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar. Securing his release with difficulty, in 1717 he was appointed Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen and remained at Cöthen until 1723, when he moved to Leipzig as Cantor at the School of St. Thomas, with responsibility for the music of the five principal city churches. Bach was to remain in Leipzig until his death in 1750.
As a craftsman obliged to fulfil the terms of his employment, Bach provided music suited to his various appointments. It was natural that his earlier work as an organist and something of an expert on the construction of organs, should result in music for that instrument. At Cöthen, where the Pietist leanings of the court made church music unnecessary, he provided a quantity of instrumental music for the court orchestra and its players. In Leipzig he began by composing series of cantatas for the church year, later turning his attention to instrumental music for the Collegium musicum of the University, and to the collection and ordering of his own compositions.
The third volume of the Clavierübung, a collection of various chorale preludes described as on the catechism and other songs, was assembled in 1739 in Leipzig. Known as the Organ Mass, corresponding as it does, in part, to the movements of the Mass, the work is framed by the Prelude and Fugue in E flat major, BWV 552, the fugue known to English audiences as the St. Anne Fugue, because of the resemblance of the opening of the fugal subject to the well known Croft hymn-tune of that name usually coupled with the words O God, our help in ages past. The dotted rhythms of the Prelude make an impressive opening, with its concerto grosso contrasts of dynamics. The elaboration of the Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit (Kyrie, God, the Father eternal) has the cantus firmus in the upper part, prefigured in the earlier entry of tenor, alto and bass in a quicker diminution of the chant. What in vocal terms would have been a threefold Kyrie is followed, in due liturgical form, by a treatment of the Christe eleison, Christe, aller Welt Trost (Christ, trust of all the world). Here the prolonged notes of the chant, already suggested by the earlier entries, are heard in the tenor. The final threefold Kyrie, Gottheiliger Geist (Kyrie, God the Holy Ghost) has the delayed entry of the chant in the bass, its contour already suggested by alto and tenor and inverted in the soprano. A second version of the Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, Christe, aller Welt Trost and Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist is now given for manuals only in much less elaborate form, all three in livelier triple rhythms.
The Gloria of the Mass has its counterpart in Allein Gott in der Hoh' sei Ehr' (Glory be to God alone on high). The first version, for manuals only, is in a three-voice texture, with a triple time version of the chant appearing in the alto, after appearing in varied outline in the soprano and bass. The second version, using two manuals and pedals, again suggests the melody, in the upper part in rapid figuration and in the pedals in a series of slow, separate notes, before it emerges in clearer form in the middle voice. There follows a Fughetta, a miniature fugue, for manuals only, on a subject derived from the melody.
The Lutheran Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot' (These are the holy ten commandments), with a five-voice texture, introduces the solemn theme in canon at the octave between the fourth and third voice, the order of entry reversed for the second line, but restored in the concluding lines. The melody is then adapted to form a fugal subject for a four-voice fughetta, introduced by the tenor, followed by alto, soprano and bass.
The Credo, for full organ, is provided by Wir glauben all' an einen Gott (We believe all in one God), based on contrapuntal entries, at first in alto and soprano, followed by a new element in the pedals, a phrase that is to recur as new keys are established. An alternative version, for manuals only, follows, now in E minor, instead of the preceding D minor, a fughetta that is much ornamented and very much shorter than the first version.
A native of Germany, Wolfgang Rübsam received his musical training in Europe from Erich Ackermann, Helmut Walcha and Marie-Claire Alain and in the United States from Robert T. Anderson. Living today in the Chicago area, he has held a professorship at Northwestern University since 1974, and since 1981 has served as University Organist at the University of Chicago. International recognition was established in 1973 when he won the Grand Prix de Chartres, Interpretation, and has grown through his recording career, with over eighty recordings, many of which have received awards. Wolfgang Rübsam performs frequently in major international festivals and concert halls, including the Los Angeles Bach Festival; Wiener Festwochen, Vienna; Lahti International Organ Festival, Finland; Royal Festival Hall, London; Alice Tully Hall, New York, and conducts master classes both in interpretation of early and romantic organ repertoire, and in interpreting the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach on the modern piano.