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8.550930 - BACH, J.S.: Clavierubung, Part III, Vol. 2 (Rubsam)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Clavierubung III Vol. 2
Johann Sebastian 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 music that prevailed in the later part of the eighteenth century. Johann Sebastian Bach himself represented the end of an age, the culmination of the Baroque in a magnificent synthesis of Italian melodic invention, French rhythmic dance forms and German contrapuntal mastery.
Born in Eisenach in 1685, Bach was educated largely by his eldest brother, after the early death of his parents. At the age of eighteen he embarked on his career as a musician, serving first as a court musician at Weimar, before appointment as organist at Arnstadt. Four years later he moved to Mühlhausen as organist and the following year became organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar. Securing his release with difficulty, in 1717 he was appointed Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen and remained at Cöthen until 1723, when he moved to Leipzig as Cantor at the School of St. Thomas, with responsibility for the music of the five 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 earlier work as an organist and something of an expert on the construction of organs, should result in music for that instrument. At Cöthen, where the Pietist leanings of the court made church music unnecessary, he provided a quantity of instrumental music for the court orchestra and its players. In Leipzig he began by composing series of cantatas for the church year, later turning his attention to instrumental music for the Collegium musicum of the University, and to the collection and ordering of his own compositions.
The Organ Mass continues with the Our Father, Vater unser im Himmelreich (Our Father in Heaven). Here a much ornamented subject appears immediately in the upper part, to be imitated by the second voice. The chorale melody itself is presented in canon between the upper part and the fourth of the five voices. There is a shorter alternative working of the Vater unser, for manuals, its melody in the upper part.
Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam (Christ our Lord to Jordan came) presents the theme in the pedals, against a three-voice contrapuntal texture. A second version, for manuals only, starts with the original melody, which is then heard inverted in the bass.
The De profundis, Aus tiefer Not schrei' ich zu dir (Out of the deep have I called) is written in a massive six-voice texture, for full organ, with two parts in the pedals and a second chorale subject introduced by the alto, after the statement of the initial subject by the fourth voice. A less complex version for manuals follows, the opening subject answered in inversion before the chorale melody appears in the upper part.
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der von uns den Zom Gottes wandt (Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who turned from us the wrath of God) opens with a contrapuntal subject of wide leaps, the first four bars offering tenth, octave and sixth on an ascending bass line. A lower second voice answers this. The re-appearance of the subject in the upper part accompanies the cantus firmus, which is now heard in the pedals. The opening figure, either in its original form or in inversion, remains of importance in the following texture. The subject for the following fugue is closely related to the chorale melody and is worked out in four voices, to be played on the manuals.
The four Duets that follow in the third volume of the Clavierübung have enjoyed an independent existence as material not only for keyboard players, but also for duettists on a variety of other instruments. The title Duetto means a two-voice texture, in the manner of a two-part invention. The first, in E minor, opens with a rapid scale in the upper part, while the lower part introduces a descending figure in octave leaps, before roles are reversed. The second, in F major, offers a less elaborate subject in the upper part, answered in the dominant, to re-appear in various keys, on occasions overlapping in stretto. The opening section is repeated in conclusion. The G major third duet of the series is in compound rhythm, worked out as a two-part invention, to be followed by a final duet in A minor, in which the lower voice introduces an extended subject, answered by the upper part and then treated in a variety of ways, together with material derived from later episodes.
The collection ends with the great five-voice Fugue in E flat major: The third voice offers the subject, answered by the fourth, followed by the first and second voices and finally, on the pedals, by the fifth. A more elaborate second subject is introduced, in 6/4, and when that has been worked out a third subject appears, now in 12/8, diverse elements brought together in one of the greatest of Bach's organ fugues.