BACH, J.S.: Organ Favourites
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Prelude andFugue in E Flat Major, BWV 552
Pastoralein F Major, BWV 590
Toccata inD Minor, BWV 565
Prelude andFugue in D Major, BWV 532
Prelude andFugue in E Minor, BWV 548
JohannSebastian 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 musicthat prevailed in the later part of the eighteenth century. Johann Sebastian Bach himselfrepresented the end of an age, the culmination of the Baroque in a magnificent synthesisof Italian melodic invention, French rhythmic dance forms and German contrapuntal mastery.
Born inEisenach in 1685, Bach was educated largely by his eldest brother, after the early deathof his parents. At the age of eighteen he embarked on his career as a musician, servingfirst as a court musician at Weimar, before appointment as organist at Arnstadt. Fouryears later he moved to Muehlhausen as organist and the following year became organist andchamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar. Securing his release with difficulty, in1717 he was appointed Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Coethen and remained atCoethen until 1723, when he moved to Leipzig as Cantor at the School of St. Thomas, withresponsibility for the music of the five principal city churches. Bach was to remain inLeipzig until his death in 1750.
As acraftsman obliged to fulfil the terms of his employment, Bach provided music suited to hisvarious appointments. It was natural that his earlier work as an organist and something ofan expert on the construction of organs, should result in music for that instrument. AtCoethen, where the Pietist leanings of the court made church music unnecessary, heprovided a quantity of instrumental music for the court orchestra and its players. InLeipzig he began by composing a series of cantatas for the church year, later turning hisattention to instrumental music for the Collegium Musicum of the University, and to thecollection and ordering of his own compositions.
In LeipzigBach began work on his Clavieruebung,adopting the title from the work of a predecessor in Leipzig, Johann Kuhnau. The third ofthe four volumes appeared in 1739 and consists very largely of organ music for theLutheran Mass. The collectionopens with an impressive and majestic Prelude in Eflat, and the whole collection ends with a fugue in the same key, known to theEnglish as the St. Anne Fugue because of the similarity of the subject to a well-knownAnglican hymn-tune of that name.
The Pastorale in F major seems to have been written in1710 or thereabouts and belongs to the period when Bach was employed as organist atWeimar. It opens with an Italian-style pastoral movement, familiar from the Christmas Concerto of Corelli, and continues withthree further, apparently disparate movements for manuals only, with a sequence of keysthat is, at the very least, unusual.
The famous D minor Toccata is an early work, probably writtenwhile Bach was organist at Arnstadt or at Muehlhausen, that is in 1706 or 1707, before hemoved to Weimar. The D major Prelude and Fugue
that follow were written in the Weimar years, the latter making energetic and ingenioususe of a relatively simple subject.
The Prelude and Fugue in E minor belong to the firstyears of Bach's employment in Leipzig. The fugue is popularly known in England as theWedge, because of the shape of the subject. It is preceded by a prelude of particularmagnificence.
OberlinConservatory of Music
The OberlinConservatory of Music, established in 1865, was the first such institution in the UnitedStates of America and is now among the most distinguished, offering its 500 studentstraining in performance and in other branches of music. The facilities at Oberlin includetwo concert halls, 173 practice rooms, and, in its instrument collection, over 300 pianos,of which 171 are Steinway grand pianos, and 25 organs. There are electronic and computermusic studios containing the most advanced modern equipment for work in this field, and alibrary with the largest holding of all undergraduate institutions in the country.
TheFlentrop Organ, designed and constructed for Oberlin by the distinguished Dutchorgan-builder Dirk Flentrop, was made possible by Frank Van Cleef, whose family has a longassociation with the College. It is dedicated to the memory of George Whitfield Andrews,who taught at the Conservatory for nearly fifty years, until his death in 1932. Theinstrument follows the principles established by Flentrop and his father in emulation ofthe earlier great European organ-builders, making use of tracker action, slider chests andtraditional casing. The organ was inaugurated in 1974 with an opening recital byMarie-Claire Alain.
WolfgangRuebsam had his early musical training in Germany, France and the United States ofAmerica, and won international recognition when he was awarded first prize at the organcompetition in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the Grand Prix de Chartres. He has given recitalsin many important centres and has taken part in the Los Angeles Bach Festival, the LahtiFestival in Finland and the Vienna Festival. In 1974 he was appointed to the staff ofNorthwestern University, Evanston, and in 1981 to the University of Chicago.