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8.553859 - BACH, J.S.: Great Organ Works (Rübsam)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Toccata
and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
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 l723, 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.
Leipzig Clavierübung, of which the third volume appeared in 1739, opens with an impressive and majestic Prelude in E flat, and the whole collection ends with a fugue in the same key, known to the English as the St. Anne Fugue because of the similarity of the subject to a well-known Anglican hymn-tune of that name.
The famous D minor Toccata and Fugue is an early work, probably written while Bach was organist at Arnstadt or at Mühlhausen, that is in 1706 or 1707, before he moved to Weimar. The Fugue in G minor, BWV 578, is thought to have been written before 1707. Its five-bar subject is stated first by the soprano, followed by the other three voices in descending order. Sequential episodes lead to partial and complete entries of the subject, as the fugue goes forward. A cantata provides the movement Jesu bleibet meine Freude known in English as Jesu, joy of Man's Desiring.
The C major Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, striking not least in the distinctive nature of the three sections into which it falls, is in form the counterpart of the three movement Italian concerto of the period. The work opens with a brilliant improvisatory prelude, display on the manuals followed by a passage for pedal solo, before more elaborate counterpoint involving manuals and pedals. There follows an Adagio aria, slowing in a concluding recitative, before a capricious fugue subject, interrupted by abrupt rests, a characteristic that naturally recurs, as the four parts enter, in descending order.
Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (I call on you, Lord Jesus Christ) accompanies the chorale of the title with a pedal part of repeated quavers and a middle part of running semiquavers.
The Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, a monumental work, is thought to belong to the period before Weimar. The fugue is preceded by a passacaglia, a major example of the Baroque dance-variation form. The passacaglia theme, perhaps borrowed from a Mass by André Raison, is heard first on the pedals, to be followed by twenty variations.
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