KREBS: Organ Works (Gerhard Gnann) (Naxos: 8.553924)
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Johann Ludwig Krebs(1713-1780)
Organ Works Vol. 1
The most distinguished of Johann Sebastian Bach's pupils, Johann LudwigKrebs was born in Buttelstedt in 1713, the eldest son of a musician, JohannTobias Krebs. The latter, serving as organist at Buttelstedt before moving tosimilar employment at the Michaeliskirche in Buttstadt, had for two yearstravelled twice a week to Weimar for lessons with Johann Gottfried Walther,organist from 1707 at the church of St Peter and St Paul, and with Walther'skinsman, Johann Sebastian Bach. Johann Ludwig had his early lessons from hisfather and was able, in 1726, to enter the Thomasschule in Leipzig, where Bachhad moved in 1723 as Cantor. The boy continued his studies there for the nextnine years, finally leaving to enter the university, where he was stillavailable for performance in the collegium musicum under Bach's direction. Hewas also able to help his former teacher in music at the Thomaskirche,particularly, it has been suggested, in the aftermath of Bach's dispute withthe Rector of the Thomasschule over the appointment of a competent prefect. In1735 Bach had provided his pupil with a testimonial, recommending him as amusician of distinction, a player of the keyboard, violin and lute and aproficient composer. Two years later Krebs was appointed organist at theMarienkirche in Zwickau. In 1744 he moved to Zeitz as castle organist andfinally, in 1755, after failure to succeed Bach in Leipzig on the latter'sdeath in 1750, settled at Altenburg as organist at the court of PrinceFriedrich of Gotha-Altenburg. He retained this position until his death in1780.
Krebs was highly regarded by his contemporaries as an organist and as acomposer. His style reflects that of his teacher, modified at times by thedevelopments of the second half of the century. At the same time he did much topreserve works by Bach that he copied, both as a pupil and in subsequent years.
A later writer recalled Bach's play on his pupil's name and his own, with thewords einzigen Krebs im Bache (the only crayfish [Krebs] in thestream [Bach]). His younger brothers had also been pupils of Bach at theThomasschule, but did not choose to follow careers in music, preferring academic life. Thethree sons of Johann Ludwig, however, continued the family tradition, onesucceeding his father as court organist at Altenburg.
The Toccata et Fuga in E major, with the initial direction Praeludiocon discrezione, starts, as certain of Bach's toccatas had done, with anextended passage for the pedals alone, after which the manuals enter with asequence over a sustained pedal note, proceeding through various changes of keyto a grandiose conclusion. The following fugue is introduced by the alto voice,followed in an overlapping answer by the tenor. The third voice is provided bythe pedals, with an overlapping entry in the top voice. The texture unwinds intraditional Baroque form, with varied entries of the subject, inversions andmoments of relative repose over sustained pedal notes.
The G minor Ach Gott, erhor mein Seufzen ('Ah God, hear mysighs') offers a more modern and chromatic introduction, over which the choralemelody is introduced in a single melody-line, proceeding in the same way untilthe final resolution into the expected G major chord.
Sei Lob und Ehr dem hochsten Gut ('Praise and honour to the highest Good'), in Fmajor, is included in the second part of the Clavier??bung by Krebs,announced in 1753 and advertised on its title page as containing variouspreludes and variations on church songs suitable for performance on the organor clavier. Following the practice of this collection, the work is in threeparts, starting with a Praeambulum on the chorale, followed by a tricinium,a three-voice working of the chorale melody in 9/8 metre. Finally thechorale is heard alio modo, in another version, in a direct statement ofthe hymn, with a figured bass.
Again following the precedent of Bach, Krebs opens his Toccata inA minor over a sustained pedal note, before the pedals are allowed theirnecessary solo display. A second section in C major soon modulates, with afinal section for the manuals only leading to concluding chords. The Fuga hasan extended subject, stated first in the soprano, answered in the alto, toappear again in the tenor and finally, with the pedals, in the bass. A passageof display leads to the return of the original key and subject, but there arefurther transformations of the material before the final return of the subjecton the pedals.
Allein Gott in der Hoh' sei Ehr' >('To God alone on high be honour'), in G major,opens the first book of the Clavier??bung, announced in 1752. Again formanuals only, it starts with a Praeambulum in which triplet figurationgenerally predominates. This leads to a Fughetta, a little three-voice fugue.
In the second of the three sections, the chorale melody is heard over a movingbass, to return in plainer form in the figured bass version in conclusion.
Wer nur den lieben Gott la?ƒt walten ('Fantasia on: Who only lets dear God prevail'),in A minor, is the second chorale version of the first book of the Clavier??bungand follows a similar tripartite pattern. The Praeambulum startswith a subject, echoed in canon by the lower of the two parts. The chorale isheard in clearer form against a semiquaver bass in a bicinium, beforeits due return in full harmony.
The Fantasia sopra: Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele ('Fantasia on:Be joyful, O my soul'), in G major, offers a three-voice introductory passage,before the entry of the first phrase of the chorale, ornamented. The section isrepeated, leading to a variation of the introduction and further entries of thedecorated chorale melody, phrase by phrase.
The Trio in E flat major, one of two in this key, is in the formfamiliar from Bach, with three interwoven melodic lines for two manuals andpedals. The two manuals provide opportunities both for passages in thirds andsixths and for antiphonal writing, as one answers the other. The final section,in a Vivace 3/8 metre, suggests a fugal exposition in its opening, witha recurrent and characteristic subject.
The B minor Ach Herr mich armer S??nder ('Ah Lord, me a poorsinner') presents the chorale melody over a continuing and closely wovencontrapuntal texture. The melody is heard in the pedals at the start and thepedals again prefigure the second phrase. After its appearance in the upperpart the first section is repeated. The same procedure is followed at first inthe second half, to be replaced by a less precise foreshadowing of the melody,as it makes its way to a modal ending, harmonized with the dominant of B minor,F sharp major.
The impressive Praeludium in C major starts in the style of atoccata or fantasia. The opening manual display leads to a passage for solopedals, after which the work goes on its grandiose way. The following Fugue,in 12/8 metre, has a relatively extended subject, stated first by the altoand answered in the soprano. The pedals have the next entry, to be answered bythe tenor. The easily recognisable subject returns in various guises, as thefugal texture is worked out.