BACH, J.S.: Das Orgelbuchlein, Vol. 1 (USA RMC Classical Music/ Wolfgang Rubsam) (Naxos: 8.553031)
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Orgelb??chlein TheLittle Organ Book Volume I
Fugue in B Minor, BWV 579
Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland, BWV 599
Gott, durch deine G??te, BWV 600
Herr Christ, der ein'ge Gottessohn, BWV 601
Lob sei dem allmachtigen Gott, BWV 602
Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 531
Puer natus in Bethlehem, BWV 603
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 604
Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich, BWV 605
Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her, BWV 606
Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar, BWV 607
In dulci jubilo, BWV 608
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich, BWV 609
Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 610
Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV 611
Wir Christenleut', BWV 612
Prelude in G Major, BWV 568
The New Year
Helft mir Gottes G??te preisen, BWV613
Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, BWV 614
In dir ist Freude, BWV 615
Fantasia in C Major, BWV 570
Mit Fried', und Freud' ich fahr'dahin, BWV 616
Herr Gott, nun schleu?ƒ den Himmelauf, BWV 617
Prelude and Fugue in F Minor, BWV 534
Johann Sebastian Bach was a member ofa family that had for generations been occupied in music. His sons were to continue thetradition, providing the foundation of a new style of music that prevailed in the laterpart of the eighteenth century. Johann Sebastian Bach himself represented the end of anage, the culmination of the Baroque in a magnificent synthesis of Italian melodicinvention, French rhythmic dance forms and German contrapuntal mastery.
Born in Eisenach in 1685, Bach waseducated largely by his eldest brother, after the early death of his parents. At the ageof eighteen he embarked on his career as a musician, serving first as a court musician atWeimar, before appointment as organist at Arnstadt. Four years later he moved toM??hlhausen as organist and the following year became organist and chamber musician toDuke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar. Securing his release with difficulty, in 1717 he wasappointed Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen and remained at Cothen until1723, when he moved to Leipzig as Cantor at the School of St. Thomas, with responsibilityfor the music of the five principal city churches. Bach was to remain in Leipzig until hisdeath in 1750.
As a craftsman obliged to fulfil theterms of his employment, Bach provided music suited to his various appointments. It wasnatural that his earlier work as an organist and something of an expert on theconstruction of organs, should result in music for that instrument. At Cothen, where thePietist leanings of the court made church music unnecessary, he provided a quantity ofinstrumental music for the court orchestra and its players. In Leipzig he began bycomposing series of cantatas for the church year, later turning his attention toinstrumental music for the Collegium musicum ofthe University, and to the collection and ordering of his own compositions.
The Orgelb??chleinor Little Organ Book includes chorale preludes for the church year and writtenduring Bach's time at Weimar and, in part, during the subsequent period he spent atCothen. Each prelude provides a musical meditation on the theme of the chorale on whichit is based. As a prelude to the Orgelb??chlein, thepresent release starts with Bach's Fugue on a Theme ofCorelli, BWV 579, a miraculous transformation of a subject derived from theolder composer, and a tribute to an Italian master whose work influenced Bach. The bookitself opens with the season of Advent, the beginning of the church year. Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland (Now come, Saviour ofthe Gentiles) elaborates the chorale melody, which is heard in the top part. Golf, durch deine Gate (God, through Thy Goodness),has an alternative title, Gottes Sohn ist kommen (TheSon of God has come). The chorale starts in the upper part, echoed, in canon at theoctave, by the pedals, which enter one bar later. The steady moving rhythm of the innerparts provides accompanying elaboration. The third of the chorale preludes, Herr Christ, der ein'ge Gottessohn (Lord Christ, theonly Son of God), with its alternative title Herr Golf,
nun sei gepreiset(Lord God, now bepraised), each half of which is repeated, keeps the chorale melody in the upper part. Thepreludes for Advent end with Lob sei dem allmachtigenGolf (Praise be to almighty God), where the four-voice texture again keeps themelody in the upper part.
The chorale preludes for Christmas arepreceded here by the Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV531, another work that, like the Fugue on aTheme of Corelli, seems to date from the period before Bach's appointment toWeimar as court organist. The triple time Puer natus inBethlehem (A Boy is born in Bethlehem) is a prelude of brief simplicity, itsmelody in the upper part. A missing page in the autograph is followed by Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (Praised be thou, JesusChrist), its melody elaborated, and prefigured in preceding inner parts. Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich (The day that is so joyful) preservesthe characteristic rhythm of its accompanying part throughout and leads to the well known Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her (From Heaven onhigh I come), its melody ornamented. Vom Himmel kam derEngel Schar (From Heaven came the angel host) echoes the descent of theangels in its descending scales, rapid in the middle part and of greater solemnity in thebass. In dulci jubilo (In sweet jubilation)miraculously conceals its art, which involves a canonic treatment of both melody andaccompanying triplet rhythm. Lobt Gott, ihr Christen,allzugleich (Praise God, you Christians, all together) presents the melody onlyin the upper part, against an initially descending bass, and Christmas continues with Jesu, meine Freude (Jesus, my joy), its accompanyingparts finely interwoven. Christum wir sollen lobenschon (Christ we should all praise) has its melody in the alto part, imitatedby the more elaborate tenor part. The celebration of the season ends with Wir Christenleut' (We Christian people), its beatdivided in three, with a repeated accompanying figuration.
The New Year is introduced here byBach's Prelude in G major, BWV 568, a workagain conjecturally dated to the period before 1708 and Bach's appointment as Weimar courtorganist. The Prelude opens with descending scales and offers scope for dexterouspedal-work. The first of the New Year chorale preludes is Helft mir Gottes G??te preisen (Help me praise God'sgoodness). As often in these preludes, the contour of the chorale melody is initiallyfollowed in the accompanying parts. The old year is dismissed in Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, (The old year has gone),followed by the imitative entries of voices in In dirist Freude (In you is joy).
Bach's C major Fantasia, BWV 570, provides here a transitionto chorale preludes for the Feast of the Purification. The first prelude is on Mit Fried' und Freud' ich fahr' dahin (In peace andjoy I now depart), echoing the words of Simeon, the Nuncdimittis. Once again the accompanying rhythmic figures assume importance, onefirst heard in the tenor part, the other in the bass. HerrGo