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8.553134 - BACH, J.S.: Kirnberger Chorales and other Organ Works, Vol. 1

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

Kirnberger Chorales I and other organ works
Prelude & Fugue in E Major, BWV 566
Partite diverse sopra: Christ, der du bist der helle Tag, BWV 766
Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten, BWV 690
Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten BWV, 691
Ach Gott und Herr, BWV 692
Ach Gott und Herr, BWV 693
Wo soil ich fliehen hin, BWV 694
Fantasia super: Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 695
Fugue in C Minor, BWV 574
Fughetta: Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV 696
Fughetta: Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 697
Fughetta: Herr Christ, der ein'ge Gottes Sohn, BWV 698
Fughetta: Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland, BWV 699
Vom Himmel hoch da komm'ich her, BWV 700
Fughetta: Vom Himmel hoch da komm'ich her, BWV 701
Prelude & Fugue in C Minor, BWV 549

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 so-called Kirnberger Collection, a title now generally ignored in recent editions, is a collection of music by Bach copied by or for his pupil Johann Philipp Kirnberger. The latter was born in Saalfeld in 1721 and educated in Coburg and Cotha, before, in 1739, travelling to Leipzig for lessons in composition and performance with Bach. After a period spent in Poland, he returned to Dresden, moving then to Berlin as a violinist in the Prussian royal service. In 1754 he entered the service of Prince Heinrich of Prussia and four years later that of Princess Anna Amalia, remaining in this last position until his death in Berlin in 1783. Kirnberger had the highest regard for Bach, and did his utmost to bring about the posthumous publication of the latter's four-part chorale settings.

Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E major, BWV 566, seems to have been written before his period as court organist in Weimar. It opens with a toccata-like prelude, hence its earlier published title of Toccata. A pedal passage leads to a more chordal section before the fugue begins, with its extended subject announced by the soprano, answered by three other voices in descending order . The progress of the fugue is interrupted by a brief toccata-like passage introducing a fugue in triple time, its subject derived from the earlier subject, with elements of the earlier countersubject making an appearance.

It is suggested that the Partite diverse, chorale variations, date from about 1700, when Bach was at the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg. The first of these, the Partite diverse sopra Christ, du bist der helle Tag, BWV 766, is based on a chorale that is a Lutheran translation of the hymn Christe, qui lux es et dies, used as an evening hymn. In Partita I the chorale is harmonized, followed by Partita II, a bicinium. The second variation, Partita III, brings a rhythmic change in accompaniment figuration and Partita IV has further embroidery of the melody. In Partita V the chorale melody is in the tenor part, while in Partita VI the metre is 12/8. Partita VII, con pedale se piace, perhaps doubling the left hand, ends the set of variations.

The first of the Kirnberger Chorales, Wit nur den lieben Gott läßt walten, BWV 690, takes as its basis the hymn by Georg Neumark, published in 1641 and generally to be sung on the Fifth Sunday after Trinity. It probably dates from the Weimar period, with the simpler version, BWV 691, written out by Bach in his note-book for his son Wilhelm Friedemann. The first, more contrapuntal version, like the second, has its chorale melody in the upper part. Ach Gott und Herr, BWV 692 and BWV 693, although included in his collection by Kimberger, are thought to be by Johann Gottfried Walther, a cousin and friend of Bach, since both versions seem to form part of Walther' s partita on the same melody. Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV 694 is dated to the period before Weimar and is for two manuals and pedals. It is based on a penitential hymn of 1630 by J. Heermaann. Here the chorale melody is played by the pedals, while there is a suggestion of the text (Whither shall I flee) in the running notes of the music.

The Fantasia super Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 695, based on an Easter hymn by Martin Luther derived from the Victimae paschali laudes, is for manuals only, with the chorale melody in the alto. This, like the fughettas, seems to date from Bach's period at Weimar.

The Fugue in C minor, BWV 574, makes use of a theme by the Italian composer and organist Giovanni Legrenzi, although the source of the theme has not been identified. The subject is not extended and is announced by the alto, followed by tenor, bass and soprano. The fugue ends in a passage of climax of some freedom.

Other chorales from the Kirnberger Collection include a series of fughettas. The first of these, on Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV 696, uses a chorale with a text by Martin Luther derived, as is the melody, from the traditional Catholic Christmas hymn A solis ortus cardine. The chorale is used to provide points of imitation, with a subject derived from the first line. The fughetta on Gelobet seist du !esu Christ, BWV 697, takes the text of the first verse from the fourteenth century, adapted from the Latin Christmas sequence Grates nunc omnes reddamus, with a melody also taken from the original Catholic chant by Luther. Again the first line of the chorale provides a fugalsubject. Herr Christ, der ein'ge Gottes Sohn, BWV 698, is also an early Lutheran Christmas hymn, with a fugal subject taken from the first line of the chorale, while Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 699, was taken by Luther from the Advent hymn of St Ambrose, Veni redemptor gentium. Bach's fughetta again takes its subject from the first line of the chorale.

Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 549, has an extended passage for the pedals at the start, coming to rest on a low pedal C, with a general use of sustained pedal notes in what follows. The fugue has a four-bar subject, announced first in the lower part in the left hand, followed by other higher voices in order. The pedal entry is delayed until bar 40, when it is used to introduce the climax and conclusion of the work.

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. Living today 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 was established in 1973 when he won the Grand Prix de Chartres, Interpretation, and has grown 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 Each 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 Each on the modern piano.

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