SEON - Philips
2 LPs - 6775 018 - (p) 1975
2 LPs - RL 30428 - (p) 1980
2 CDs - SB2K 63185 - (c) 1997


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565
7' 18" A1

Fantasia in C Minor, BWV 562
5' 16" A2

Fantasia in G Major, BWV 572

10' 11" A3

Partite diverse sopra "O Gott, du frommer Gott", BWV 767

17' 54" B1

Chorale Prelude "Valet will ich dir Geben", BWV 736
4' 44" B2

Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 546
12' 59" C1

Chorale "Allein Gott in der Höh'", BWV 663
8' 30" C2

Chorale "O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig", BWV 618
4' 20" C3

Chorale Prelude "Jesus Christus, unser Heiland", BWV 665
4' 55" D1

Chorale Prelude "Jesus Christus, unser Heiland", BWV 666
3' 10" D2

Chorale Prelude "Wir Christenleut' hab'n jetzund Freud", BWV 710
2' 22" D3

Partite diverse sopra "Christ, der du bist der helle Tag", BWV 766
10' 37" D4

Gustav Leonhardt, at the Christiaan Müller Organ of the "Waalse Kerk" Amsterdam, built 1733/34

Luogo e data di registrazione
Marzo 1973

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Recording Supervisor
Wolf Erichson

Recording Engineer

Dieter Thomsen

Prima Edizione LP
Seon (Philips) | 6775 018 | 2 LPs - durata 45' 23" - 46' 53" | (p) 1975 | ANA
Seon (RCA Red Seal) | RL 30428 | 2 LPs - durata 45' 23" - 46' 53" | (p) 1980 | ANA

Edizione CD
Sony | SB2K 63185 | 2 CDs - durata 70' 11" - 77' 34" | (c) 1997 | ADD

Original Cover

Christoph Weigel (1654-1725) - Organist kupferstich aus "Theatrum Musicum", Nürnberg, 1720

Il doppio CD Sony contiene anche brani di altra pubblicazione (Seon 6775 001).

Compared with many other musical giants of history Johann Sebastian Bach was a ,,late developer”. He matured slowly, but steadily. It was not until he was between 25 and 30 years of age, i. e. during the Weimar period, that he acquired complete mastery of his art, a mastery, however, that was to be maintained consistently right up to the end of his life. Although the process of “finding himself” was a gradual one, this does not, of course, mean that all his early works can be dismissed as having little artistic merit - on the contrary, even they tower far above anything similar written by his contemporaries and provide ample glimpses of latent genius. This particularly applies to his early works for organ, the instrument with which he naturally felt the closest affinity, being the one in constant daily use. Here we find germinating the ideas that were to come to fruition in the great masterpieces of the later years.
One of the most gripping and most popular of all Bach’s early works is the famous Toccata in D minor (BWV 565). Full of primal energy, the work sets off in extemporary manner with powerfully descending unisoni, broken chords and chords of the diminished seventh, until finally the pedal enters with impressive solemnity. The fugue, whose theme has already been intimated in the opening Adagio, temporarily relaxes the mood, but the dramatic intensity returns again with the reappearance of the toccata section.
The Fantasia in G major (BWV 572) is a typical product of the emotionally exuberant ,,Sturm und Drang” years. Although actually divided into three sections - the young Bach uses French designations for the movements: Très vitement, Grave, Lentement - the work gives the impression of being one long ecstasy of sound and colour. In the third section, hidden beneath the glittering array of broken chords, is some genuine fivepart counterpoint which subtly refers back to various elements in the preceding sections. Most compelling is the extensive Grave middle section with its weighty appoggiaturas, diminished chords and sweeping melodic curves. The effect created by the bass ascending in semibreves diatonically over two octaves is quite monumental in its grandeur.
The two C minor works are products of Bach’s mature years. The Fantasia BWV 562 (there is a fugue belonging to it, which is unfortunately unfinished) is an unusually expressive compositon developed out of a single musical idea. Two pedal points at the begin
ning and at the end of the work form an effective frame. The opening movement of the Prelude and Fugue in C minor (BWV 546) is likewise very clear in its construction. A work of mighty proportions it serves to depict strong, passionate emotion. After the initial powerful pedal point come motives familiar to us from the final chorale of Part I of the ,,Matthew Passion” and other works. At the first climax Bach already uses the chord of the Neapolitan sixth, with Bach always a sign of the exceptional. The episode employs a double theme which substantially determines the musical course of events right up to the close of the movement. The following fivepart fugue is based on two themes: an evenly constructed, solemnly striding theme and a more mobile one, of which, for the most part, only the opening is developed, however. The tremendous build-up on the dominant just before the pedal enters for the last time is a most impressive preparation for the coda.
The chorale partitas are some of Bach’s very earliest pieces and, unlike other of his youthful works, can be dated with certainty “c.1700” (although they were most probably revised later). The influence of Georg Böhm is very apparent. In the partitas Bach applies the techniques of the secular song-and-variation form to the chorale. Although each “partita”, i. e. variation, is supposed to correspond to the text of one of the verses (quoted before it), the influence of the text on the music is, at this stage, not always very great. In O Gott, du frommer Gott (BWV 767) the concept of death in the 8th partita inspires Bach to treat the material in an expressive chromatic manner. The subject of death was, incidentally, throughout his life the inspiration of some of his finest music. In the extended final partita, no. 9, he uses a fanfare motive to illustrate the “resurrection of the dead”. The choral partita Christ, der dn bist der helle Tag (BWV 766) is extremely sweet and gentle in character, at times almost sentimental. There is much figurative and metaphoric treatment, the young composer often displaying a naive pleasure in the pictorial. The warm, intimate tone of no. 2 is closely related to the text: “Lord, keep us safe this night, we pray”; the triplet movement in no. 6 depicts the descending and ascending of the angels, and the dropping, closing together motives in no. 7 suggest the “shutting eyelids”.
In Bach’s chorale preludes, however, no matter from which period they come, the literary text receives a musical interpretation hard to surpass. In O Lamm Gottes unschuldig (BWV 618) from the “Orgelbüchlein” the cantus firmus rendered in canon at the fifth symbolizes the fulfilment of divine will through the Son, the oneness of God the Father and Christ. The contrastin “sobbing” motive (cf. BWV 546 above) symbolizes mourning. Wir Christenleut’ (BWV 710) is one of Bach’s finest chorale trios, with much imitative work and stretto treatment of the melody. In Valet will ich dir geben (BWV 736) the proud, masculine tune appears in the bass. To symbolize the triumph over death Bach uses nimble upbeat figures with leaps to the fourth and fifth, figures which bound with even more enthusiasm in the third line. Clearly an early work, Allein Gott in der Höh' sei ehr' (BWV 663) presents the imaginatively ornamented cantus firmus in the tenor, in the manner of the traditional North German chorale fantasia. In Jesu Christus, unser Heiland (BWV 665), based on the Lutheran communion hymn, the text is reflected in great detail. The continually upward-striving counterpoint of the first line is obviously meant to represent the soul’s striving to reach its Savior, the syncopations of the second line the struggle for God’s love. The “bitter suffering” of the third line is symbolized by agonising chromatic descents, the “torments of hell” of the fourth by the upwardrushing demisemiquavers. The chorale prelude BWV 666 based on the same hymn tune is unique in that it employs the manuals almost exclusively (only at the end a pedal note is used for support). On the whole this version is much more neutral. The someWhat rapturous style of the close suggests that it is an early work.
Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht
English translation by Avril Watts