BACH, J.S.: Kirnberger Chorales and other Organ Works, Vol. 2 (USA RMC Classical Music/ Wolfgang Rubsam) (Naxos: 8.553135)
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Kirnberger Chorales II and other organ works
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 so-called Kirnberger Collection, a title now generally ignored in recent editions, is a collection of music by Bach copied by or for his pupil Johann Philipp Kirnberger. The latter was born in Saalfeld in 1721 and educated in Coburg and Cotha, before, in 1739, travelling to Leipzig for lessons in composition and performance with Bach. After a period spent in Poland, he returned to Dresden, moving then to Berlin as a violinist in the Prussian royal service. In 1754 he entered the service of Prince Heinrich of Prussia and four years later that of Princess Anna Amalia, remaining in this last position until his death in Berlin in 1783. Kirnberger had the highest regard for Bach, and did his utmost to bring about the posthumous publication of the latter's four-part chorale settings.
Bach's great Toccata and Fugue in F major, BWV 540, was probably written during his years at Weimar. The toccata opens with a passage for manuals over a long sustained tonic pedal, followed by an extended passage for pedal solo. A dominant pedal note is sustained during the following section, again followed by an extended passage for pedals alone, after which the dialogue continues in short answering motifs based on the arpeggio. The more severe alla breve fugue has its subject first stated in the tenor, followed by alto, soprano and bass, with a double fugue as the music unwinds.
Vas Jesulein soll doch mein Trost, BWV 702, is from the Kirnberger Chorales, based on a New Year hymn. It is of doubtful authenticity, although there are traces of techniques familiar to Bach, not least the concurrence of two fugal subjects, derived from the first and second lines of the chorale. Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend', BWV 709, has a text attributed to Duke Wilhelm II of Sachsen-Weimar and was sung in Leipzig at Sunday services before the sermon. The melody, in the upper part, is ornamented, with a contrapuntal accompaniment for manuals and pedals. Allein Gott in der Hoh' sei Ehr', BWV 711, is based on a Lutheran adaptation of the Gloria, with its melody derived from plainchant. It is in the form of a bicinium, a two-part composition popular from the early days of Lutheranism, and has been attributed by some to Johann Bernhard Bach, a cousin of Johann Sebastian. The authenticity of Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt, BWV 705, has again been doubted. It is based on Spengler's penitential hymn of 1524 with its associated melody, treated memorably in Bach's Orgelbiichlein, and is, with its overlapping entries of the chorale subject, in a form that suggests vocal writing.
The Fugue in G minor, BWV 578, is thought to have been written before 1707. Its five-bar subject is stated first by the soprano, followed by the other three voices in descending order. Sequential episodes lead to partial and complete entries of the subject, as the fugue goes forward. The Fugue in G major, BWV 576, with its companion in G major, BWV 577, included in the nineteenth century Bach-Gesellschaft edition, has been omitted from the Neue Bach-Ausgabe as spurious, although it holds a position in the repertoire of organ music originally attributed to Bach.
Bach's Fughetta: Lob sei dem allmiicht'gen Gott, BWV 704, uses an Advent hymn of 1531 for the Bohemian Brethren, its melody taken from the Advent Vespers hymn Conditor alme siderum. The subject of the fughetta is taken from the first line of the chorale, adapted to this purpose, and follows the general pattern of the form. The Fughetta: Gottes Sohn ist kommen, BWV 703, uses a Christmas hymn of 1544 for the Bohemian Brethren, with a melody derived from the hymn Ave ierarchia celestis et pia. It follows the general scheme of these compositions, its subject derived from the first line of the chorale, with a countersubject that is briefly developed before a final tonic entry. Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 706, is based on a seventeenth century hymn for use before the sermon and is a straightforward chorale setting, offered in two ways, the second suggesting vocal rather than keyboard writing. Ich hab' mein' Sach' Gott heimgestellt, BWV 707 and BWV 708 uses a hymn of 1589 associated with death and hope for the world to come. It is offered first in a contrapuntal setting, with the chorale melody appearing in a complex texture, and in a simple version. The first of these has been attributed by some to Bach's cousin Johann Gottfried Walther. Wir Christenleut' habn jetzund Freud, BWV 710, is based on a Christmas hymn of 1593 and its associated melody. It is given in compound time, with the melody in the pedals and a two-part contrapuntal invention above on the manuals. In dich hab' ich gehoffet, Herr, BWV 712, uses a Lutheran hymn based on Psalm XXXI. In 12/8 metre, the melodic material is adapted to the form, appearing in various voices in a composition that is fugal in character. Jesu meine Freude, BWV 713, treats one of the most popular Lutheran hymns, itself adapted from a secular song. The melody is by the seventeenth century Lutheran composer Johannes Cruger and is used here as the substance of a composition of some intricacy. It opens with a section that is fugal, its subject providing a countersubject to the lines of the chorale. This is followed by a second section in 3/8 which treats the later part of the original melody.
The authenticity of Partite diverse sopra Ach, was soll ich Sunder machen, BWV 770, has also been doubted. It has the appearance of a set of harpsichord variations in the style of Pachelbel, although a clear distinction is not always made in early sources between organ and harpsichord. It follows the pattern of such