The music itself displays a wide range of national and historical styles. Bach uses Italian, French, and German forms and gestures, in many cases combining qualities of two or more nationalities in one piece. At the same time, he employs the Renaissance motet style of Palestrina as well as the trio, concerto, and overture idioms of the Baroque. In the Prelude in E-flat, he combines the overture and concerto in a single piece.
As an overture, it serves as a preface to the music that follows. But the Prelude unfolds in the fashion of an Italian concerto, with an opening ritornello, or main theme, that alternates with contrasting episodic segments. Bach thus shows that French and Italian styles can be united to create a new, international idiom.
On this recording, Joan Lippincott performs the large pedal settings of the chorales as a group, followed by the smaller manual arrangements. The large Kyrie-Christe-Kyrie sequence that begins the pedal pieces is set in Renaissance vocal style. The Lutheran Kyrie hymn is based on an early German translation of Kyrie fons bonitatis , a Roman Catholic chant containing a medieval poetic interpolation that was later eliminated by the Council of Trent.
The phrases of the chorale appear first in the right hand, then in the left hand, then in the pedal, and finally in the right hand once again. Bach treats the hands and feet as equal partners, much in the same fashion as he did in the Six Trio Sonatas for Organ, BWV , composed a decade earlier. The Mixolydian harmonies reflect the church roots of the Renaissance hymn.
The ritornello form, embodied in the imitative theme that frames the phrases of the chorale melody, mirrors Baroque concerto technique.
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For good measure Bach presents the hymn tune as a canon at the octave. Bach often used fugue and imitation to portray steadfast belief within Christian dogma. Underneath the fugue sounds a forceful ostinato theme that recurs at regular intervals in the pedal. Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV Canzona in D minor, BWV Fantasia super: Valet will ich dir geben, BWV Valet will ich dir geben: choralis in pedale, BWV Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten, BWV Trio Sonata No. Prelude in A minor, BWV Wir Christenleut, BWV Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, BWV Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV Kleines harmonisches Labyrinth, BWV Jesu, meine Freude, BWV Fantasia in C major, BWV Trio after two movements of a trio sonata by J.
Fasch , BWV To the contrary, a profound emotion always remains in the forefront. These three pages brilliantly develop the origins of the chorale, that is the Gregorian melody of the "Kyrie fons bonitatis". Here one will see a modern - for the time - use, the softening of a modality in the broader sense that contributes to a stretching of the resources of tonality, as would later be the case with Beethoven. Under the influence of predecessors - notably the old Flemish masters, Scheidt and Frescobaldi -, the conception and realization of these pieces are, in fact; closely related to the writing style of the Renaissance.
Bach, however, would have been incapable of settling for, or even limiting himself to slavishly reproducing them. The contrapuntal outpouring, highly developed in this extraordinarily dense polyphony - the idea is born and flourishes starting from the smallest thematic cell - indeed comes from a boundless imagination.
Every one of these chorales, like nearly all the pieces of the collection moreover, begins with the statement by a single and unique voice. They end respectively in four, five and six parts, and always with the relief that is brought by the Picardy third. This introductory voice, in the style of an a cappella motet, and the extremely vocal commentary of each fragment are nothing other than progressions of various strettos. Simultaneously, the harmony opens on numerous modulations of extreme purity.
These are musical poems whose architecture in no way resembles those works weighed down by the frequent alternation of the arsis and thesis of oratorical art. In fact, this is a triple love song, of an affective nature, and does not cease to arouse the keenest admiration.
As in the "Crucifixus" of the "Mass in B minor", a surprising chromatic phrase appears in the final bars of the third "Kyrie", without ever breaking the continuity of the discourse. This new element coincides with the highpoint of the entire piece, and even of the three pieces, marked by a growing surge and a splendid expressive amplification. This passage illustrates the last "Eleison" : an authentic and rare manifestation of a flamboyant art taken to perfection. The last verse, "All' Fehd' hat nun ein Ende" "All discord has now come to an end" , gradually fades out with an abrupt descent of more than two octaves, in the narrow space of barely three bars.
This brief coda thus dramatically runs towards the low end of the soprano register. Written in three-part concertant trio style as in the other two versions of the "Gloria", this one contains a virtuoso pedal part that supports the discourse with its regular punctuations. The dimensions of the piece bars correspond to those of a trio sonata's fast movement.
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But the originality and appeal of this work still reside in the alternate arrangement of the hymn, which is not entrusted to a single voice, but alternatively calls upon the two upper parts and even the bass. The exceptional skill, clarity, uninterrupted flow and the colouring of the argument are quite simply the product of genius.
As organist-musicologist Hermann Keller has suggested, this chorale, a sort of angelic music, can be played with a mediaeval-style sonority. Furthermore, the soft reed selected, of a sufficiently characteristic timbre, allows us to distinguish between the two "short" versions, the BWV being more inclined towards elegance and transparency. Moreover, the choice of this reed relates to the last "Duetto" 3. The use of the canon doubtless corresponds to the idea according to which the Ten Commandments are made to be rigorously observed by Man.
The handling of these entrances recalls the opening chorus of "Cantata BWV 77", in which the same chorale appears. The balance between contrapuntal rigour the two parts of the cantus firmus in canon and the suppleness of the figuralism a trio with accompaniment mark this grandiose - but never grandiloquent - construction. To the aforementioned symbolic images Bach adds others, centred on the very personage of Moses the two parts of the canon presumably evoke the two tablets of the Law; and the rising and descending scales, just like certain pedal passages, the idea of the prophet's journey.
The pedal part takes on the role of harmonic support, as in a trio movement, and makes a line occasionally in zigzag. The evolution of the latter structure is often shown by a more or less abrupt change in orientation. Doubtless mirroring our lives? Finally, the chromaticism of the last "Kyrieleis", an entreaty, a sudden cry, a tearing, could be justified as the reflection of the melody of a famous penitents' chant, "In Gottes Namen fahren wir" "In the name of the Lord do we go" , that served as a rallying chant for German pilgrims during the Crusade of The subject, which includes ten beats triplets and has ten half-tones as an ambitus, will enter ten times.
The development of the piece is sometimes straight, sometimes inverted, and always in the brilliant style of a keyboard concerto.
Marked by the irruption of semiquaver roulades, whether tightened or not, the elaboration of the piece attains an exhilarating rhythm and leads to a pure miracle of kaleidoscopic transformation of the initial microcosm. The fourteenth and final entrance is linked to a splendid quotation : "Es steht alles in seiner Macht" "He holds all in His power". This is the sole trace of the cantus firmus that stands out clearly in the tenor, in long values, whose fourteenth and final note coincides, in bar , with the final chord.
Jean-Jacques Duparcq 5 emphasises that, according to the moral precept of the cabala, all that we are results from a process of expression of divinity. This spiritualist current that has crossed the ages would naturally be found in a Luther, whose teaching incited everyone to share his gifts with others. Bach moreover showed himself a faithful servant of this doctrine. Even today, this gigantic, powerfully constructed piece, sometimes called "the fugue of the giants", is offered to us like a subject of constant wonder.
The piece is marked by an insistent chromaticism. With its varied and diversified ornamentation, the effect of the appoggiature is even more remarkable given that the harmony turns out to be rich in prodigious modulations, and that a counterpoint in full and constant expansion abounds. Bach 4 , and following a rest such as there had never been up to now and would not be in the rest of the piece, pathetic inflexions and rhythms the pedal climbs in Lombard rhythm, whereas the soprano descends chromatically.
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Here we can see, symbolically, a sort of personal "credo" claimed, asserted, proclaimed and declaimed. The juxtaposition and superposition of highly different rhythmic personages - including subtle triplets - create considerable difficulties for the musician a single organist! But if this complex piece is rightly considered one of the most difficult to play of all of Bach's organ music, this difficulty is counterbalanced by its immense beauty.
The high perfection of the slightest details is immediately conveyed in pure emotion, and this construction submits to a beauty that is always luminously intelligible. This audacious chorale is doubtless one of the summits of J. Bach's art. The organist and composer Johann Ulrich Steigleder , termed this chorale theme the "song of all songs, the prayer of all prayers". Have we never seen a sail passing on the ocean, rounded, swollen, trembling under the impetuosity of the breath of the spirit? The variant, hardly changed in relation to BWV , differs by a ritornello that gives this cantata-form piece an admirable concertant style : a six-bars prelude, short interludes, a brief conclusion.
The choice also focussed on this variant due to the irresistible beauty of the detail stops of the Kampen organ. The motif of quavers in the two trebles could be interpreted as a sign of the baptism by Saint John the Baptist.
Played by the pedal, the cantus firmus is clearly entrusted to the tenor. The music's splendid fluidity, the purifying agility of the waters of grace, all leads ineluctably to the moving concluding passage, in which a new life opens up : "Es galt ein neues Leben", as the text affirms. In nature, nor does water ever finish its way, other than to merge and cancel itself out in a great Whole. Does not this adventure without beginning or end appear as a sign of the very transience of human life?
A soft reed serves to express, in the bass, this constant flux and reflux, while a more powerful reed, entrusted to the bass, intones the hymn. As said Johann Mattheson , "The short chorale preludes that ensue from the organist's fantasy must aim at expressing, through the sound figures, the very passion to which the words refer".
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Would Bach, using mirror writing here, perhaps be contrasting the new life with the former? By resorting to this technique, the composer assuredly gives it a thoroughly symbolic meaning. He also anticipates "The Art of the Fugue" : see the counter-fugue per arsis et thesis by ascent and descent. The originality also resides in the fact of having entrusted the chorale to the upper part of the double pedal. This is the sole example of real six-part writing in all of Bach's keyboard music, if one excludes the "Ricercar a 6" from the "Musical Offering" let us point out here the marking "Ricercata a 6 voci Sonabile sull'Organo, con Pedale obligato", written on a copy in the hand of J.
Agricola himself, seems to imply that this is quite possible on the organ : on the pipe instrument, the adjunction, advisedly, of the pedal organ part can only clarify while, at the same time, making this great masterpiece even more profound. It is also the final ramification of the motet-type technique. Lacking any ornament, the discourse gradually divides up the melody of the "De profundis", intended for the sacrament of penitence according to Luther.