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8.550653 - BACH, J.S.: Trio Sonatas BWV 528-530 / Prelude and Fugue BWV 547

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

Trio Sonatas
Sonata No.4 in E Minor, BWV 528
Sonata No.5 in C Major, BWV 529
Sonata No.6 in G Major, BWV 530
Prelude & Fugue in C Major, BWV 547

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 Ernst at 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 for 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 fourth of the sonatas, in E minor, opens with a motif entrusted to the upper part, immediately imitated by the lower in a brief Adagio introduction. The lower part proposes the theme of the following Vivace, imitated at the octave by the upper part. The following B minor Andante is of increasing elaboration and complexity in figuration and leads to a triple time final movement. The sonata is arranged from the 1723 cantata, Der Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, The Heavens are telling. The fifth sonata, in C major, opens with a concerto-like movement, with a relatively limited bass accompaniment, its closing bars over long-held pedal notes. There is a slow movement in A minor with melodic lines elaborately embellished, and a final C major Allegro that continues to make technical demands on the performer. The G major sonata opens in the manner of a Vivaldi concerto, with the two upper parts in unison, before going on to brief antiphonal imitation on of the other. The upper part is entrusted with the aria melody of the E minor slow movement, the opening later re-appearing in the key of A minor, before leading, through E minor, to a final return to G major in a movement in which once more there is a miraculous interweaving of parts.

Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 547, is strikingly different from much of the composer's work of this kind. Written apparently after 1723, the Prelude opens with a three-voice contrapuntal composition for the manuals in 9/8 metre, with an unusual bass part for the pedals, including a distinctive rhythmic figure when it enters. The same rhythmic figure ends the Prelude. The first 48 bars of the fugue make no use of the pedals, which are used only in the concluding 24 bars, the last five and a half providing a tonic pedal-point. The first pedal entry is in fact in augmentation of the opening of the fugal subject, which itself is treated with the greatest contrapuntal ingenuity.

Wolfgang Rübsam
A native of Germany, Wolfgang Rübsam received his musical training in Europe from Prof. Erich Ackermann, Prof. Helmut Walcha and Marie-Claire Alain, and in the United States from Dr. Robert T. Anderson. He resides today in the Chicago area holding a Professorship at Northwestern University since 1974 and serving as University Organist at the University of Chicago since 1981. International recognition was established upon winning the GRAND PRIX DE CHARTRES, INTERPRETATION in 1973 and continues to grow through his recording career with over eighty recordings, many of which have received awards. Wolfgang Rübsam performs frequently in major international festivals and concert halls, including the Los Angeles Bach Festival; Wiener Festwochen, Vienna; Lahti International Organ Festival, Finland; Royal Festival Hall, London; Alice Tully Hall, New York, and conducts master classes both in interpretation of early and romantic organ repertoire, and in interpreting the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach on the modern piano.

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