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8.550651 - BACH, J.S.: Trio Sonatas, BWV 525-527 / Prelude and Fugue, BWV 543

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

Trio Sonatas
Sonata No.1 in E Flat Major, BWV 525
Sonata No.2 in C Minor, BWV 526
Sonata No.3 in D Minor, BWV 527
Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543

Johann Sebastian Bach made his early reputation as an organist. The son of a town and court musician, Johann Ambrosius Bach, he owed much of his early training, after the death of his parents, to his brother, Johann Christoph, organist at Ohrdruf, and began his career as organist at Arnstadt at the age of eighteen, moving to Mühlhausen four years later and in 1708 winning appointment as organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernstat Weimar, the elder of the two rulers of the duchy.

Bach's later career took him in 1717 to Cöthen as Hofkapellmeister to the young Prince Leopold, a position that involved him rather in secular music, owing to the Pietist leanings of the court. His patron's marriage to a woman without cultural interests led Bach to leave Cöthen in 1723 and move to Leipzig, where he had accepted the position of Kantor at the Choir School of St. Thomas. There he was to remain for the rest of his life in a position that brought responsibility or the music of the principal city churches and concomitant difficulties both with the town council and later with the Rector of the Thomasschule, where he was employed to teach the choristers. He assumed responsibility for the University Collegium musicum, established earlier by Telemann, a preferred candidate for the position of Kantor, and arranged for this group some of his earlier instrumental compositions. He remained in Leipzig until his death in 1750.

It was natural that a musician trained in his craft as Bach had been should write the kind of music for which there was an immediate need. In Weimar he wrote much of his organ music, in Cöthen much of his instrumental music and in Leipzig the greater part of his church music. The six Trio Sonatas for organ seem to belong to the earlier years of Bach's period in Leipzig, dated conjecturally to 1727, apparently devised for the use of the composer's eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann, who became one of the most distinguished organists of his generation in Germany. The sonatas demand clarity of performance and distinct enunciation of the two melodic lines and bass pedal part.

The first of the sonatas, in E flat major, opens with the lower melodic part announcing a theme, immediately imitated by the upper part, over a continuing bass-line. The C minor Adagio offers an upper part aria, imitated again by the lower melodic part, as the movement unfolds, a procedure followed in the final Allegro, with its inversion of the original subject in the second half of the movement. The second sonata, in C minor, proposes initially a different texture, with the two upper parts moving together in thirds. The second movement has the two lower parts accompanying a sustained melody, before a reversal of roles. This is followed by a final movement in which the opening interval of a fourth in the upper part subject provides material for the bass accompaniment of the theme in a series of descending fourths. The third of the sonatas, in D minor, provided material for the later A minor Concerto for flute, violin, harpsichord and strings. It opens with an eight-bar theme in the upper part, accompanied in the bass, before the entry in imitation by the second melodic part, again in a form familiar from sonatas for two melodic instruments and basso continuo. There is a fine-spun slow movement in F major and are turn to the original key in a lively final movement that introduces, as it proceeds, a triplet rhythm.

Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543, was probably written during the composer's time in Weimar. In common with certain other works for organ of this period, the Prelude and Fugue are closely related, the Prelude leading immediately into the Fugue, with its climax in the concluding section.

Wolfgang Rübsam
A native of Germany, Wolfgang Rübsam received his musical training in Europe from Erich Ackermann, Helmut Walcha and Marie-Claire Alain, and in the United States from Robert T. Anderson. Based now in the Chicago area, he has held a professorship at Northwestern University since 1974 and since 1981 has served as University Organist at the University of Chicago. International recognition came in 1973, when he won the Grand Prix de Chartres, Interpretation, and has I continued to grow through his recording career, with over eighty recordings, many of them winning awards. Wolfgang Rübsam performs frequently in major international festivals and concert-halls, including the Los Angeles Bach Festival, the Vienna Festwochen, the Finland Lahti International Organ Festival, London's Festival Hall and the Alice Tully Hall in New York. He gives master classes in the interpretation of early and romantic organ repertoire and in the interpreting of the keyboard music of J. S. Bach on the modern piano.

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