BACH, J.S.: Organ Works, BWV 535, 550, 584, 588-589, 736, 740 (USA RMC Classical Music/ Wolfgang Rubsam) (Naxos: 8.553033)
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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 535
Partita diverse sopra: O Gott, du frommer Gott, BWV 767
Trio in G Minor, BWV 584
Fantasia super: Valet will ich dir geben, BWV 736
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 550
Canzona in D Minor, BWV 588
Wir glauben all' an einen Gott, Vater, BWV 740
Allabreve in D Major, BWV 589
Johann Sebastian Bach was a member of a family that had forgenerations been occupied in music. His sons were to continue the tradition, providing thefoundation of a new style of music that prevailed in the later part of the eighteenthcentury. Johann Sebastian Bach himself represented the end of an age, the culmination ofthe Baroque in a magnificent synthesis of Italian melodic invention, French rhythmic danceforms and German contrapuntal mastery.
Born in Eisenach in 1685, Bach was educated largely by hiseldest brother, after the early death of his parents. At the age of eighteen he embarkedon his career as a musician, serving first as a court musician at Weimar, beforeappointment as organist at Arnstadt. Four years later he moved to M??hlhausen as organistand the following year became organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst ofWeimar. Securing his release with difficulty, in 1717 he was appointed Kapellmeister toPrince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen and remained at Cothen until 1723, when he moved toLeipzig as Cantor at the School of St. Thomas, with responsibility for the music of thefive 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 earlierwork as an organist and something of an expert on the construction of organs, shouldresult in music for that instrument. At Cothen, where the Pietist leanings of the courtmade church music unnecessary, he provided a quantity of instrumental music for the courtorchestra and its players. In Leipzig he began by composing series of cantatas for thechurch year, later turning his attention to instrumental music for the Collegium musicum of the University, and to the collection andordering of his own compositions.
Bach's Prelude and Fugue inG minor, BWV 535, seems to have been written during the composer's period atWeimar as court organist. The Prelude contains an extended passage of modulation on achromatically descending bass. In the fugal exposition the four voices enter in descendingorder, the whole work culminating in a dramatic climax, introduced by the pedals, beforethe final extended tonic pedal-point.
O Gott, du trommer Gott, BWV 767,(O God, thou good God), is one of an early set of Partite
diverse, chorale variations, writtenprobably during Bach's school-days at L??neburg, but later much revised. The chorale isfirst stated, the first section repeated with ornaments, as in its third appearance at theend. The first variation, Partita II, in atwo-part texture, sets fragments of the chorale melody over an active lower part. In Partita III a three-voice texture is used, thechorale melody appearing in a more elaborate form. The following variation, again intwo-voice texture, has continuing semiquavers over a simple broken bass-line. It isfollowed, in Partita V, by a three-voicetexture in which scale patterns have an important part to play. Partita VI preserves a two-voice chorale in the upperregister, with a syncopated bass. The following variation, with its descending scalepatterns, is in triple time, leading to Partita VII, ina more complex four-voice texture. The work ends with a variation of contrasting dynamics,calling for dexterous changes of manuals, an Andante and a final Presto.
The Trio in G minor, listedas BWV 584, is thought by many to be thework of another composer, although it has traditionally been included among thecompositions of Bach. It is a contrapuntal composition in that three-voice texture thatreaches its height in the six Bach organ Trio Sonatas.
The Fantasia on Valet willich dir geben, BWV 736, (Farewell will give you), is an alternative working ofthe chorale, with the melody in the pedals, and an antiphonal triple rhythm above. As withso much of Bach's organ music, it is thought to belong to his Weimar period.
Bach's Prelude and Fugue inG major, BWV 550, thought to predate Bach's appointment at Weimar, opens withfiguration that allows a later extended pedal passage, before a prolonged pedal-point. Thefinal bars of the Prelude modulate to the dominant, before the introduction of the fugalsubject in the tenor, answered by alto, then soprano, before the final pedal entry of thesubject, now duly worked out in a style giving full prominence to each voice.
Bach's D minor Canzona, BWV588, more precisely dated to a later period of the period at Weimar, about theyear 1715, builds on an opening pedal cantus firmus, anextended subject, answered first in the tenor voice, then in the alto and finally in thesoprano. The second section changes the subject into triple metre. Here the altointroduces the subject, the chromatically descending countersubject heard in the tenor andthen the bass, while the alto subject is answered by the soprano in a composition ofincreasing contrapuntal elaboration.
Wir glauben all' an einen Gott, Vater, BWV 740,(We believe all in one God, the Father) is less usual in its treatment of the originalchorale, in that it uses a five-part texture, with two parts entrusted to the pedals. Thechorale melody remains in the upper part, although earlier adumbrated in the upper notesof the pedals. The authenticity of the work has been doubted, as has that of the Allabreve in D major, BWV 589. These are,nevertheless, compositions of interest, the Allabreve a model of contrapuntalconstruction, with its opening subject, in the top voice, accompanied by the alto with thesecond part of that subject. In the duple metre implied in its title, the Allabreve comesto an end over a prolonged tonic pedal-point, after varied use of stretto, as entries ofthe subject are made to overlap.
A native of Germany, Wolfgang R??bsam received his musicaltraining in Europe from Erich Ackermann, Helmut Walcha and Marie-Claire Alain and in theUnited States from Robert T. Anderson. Living today in the Chicago area, he has held aprofessorship at Northwestern University since 1974, and since 1981 has served asUniversity Organist at the University of Chicago. International recognition wasestablished in 1973 when he won the Grand Prix de Chartres, Interpretation, and has grownthrough his recording career, with over eighty recordings, many of which have receivedawards. Wolfgang R??bsam performs frequently in major international festivals and concerthalls, including the Los Angeles Bach Festival; Wiener Festwochen, Vienna; LahtiInternational Organ Festival, Finland; Royal Festival Hall, London; Alice Tully Hall, NewYork, and conducts master classes both in interpretation of early and romantic organrepertoire, and in interpreting the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach on the modernpiano.