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In Dialogue, v.2/Ciofini & Vergés
In Dialogue v.2 -  Fabio Ciofini - Jordi Vergés

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Program and Notes
In Dialog, volume 2
Music for Organ and Harpsichord
Jordi Vergés, organ
Fabio Ciofini, harpsichord
J. S. Bach: Die Kunst der Fuge: Contrapunctus 13, Fuga a 2 clav., BWV 1080
J. L. Krebs: Concerto in a minor
J. C. Bach: Sonata in C Major
P. A. Soler: 3° Concierto
G. Piazza: Sonata in F Major
B. Terreni: Sonata in D Major
S. Giussani: Sonata concertata con organo e cembalo

The custom of writing music for two keyboards has deep roots, dating back to the 1500s. The notation “for organ” or “for harpsichord” indicates only one possible instrumental designation—the use of harpsichord in place of the organ and vice versa was common. The presence of double-choir stalls in some prestigious churches, such as San Marco’s basilica in Venice or San Petronius’s church in Bologna, and in many Spanish cathedrals, shows the popularity of musically opposing two instruments or two groups of instruments or two semi-choruses. Although this antiphonal style had sporadic examples in vocal works of Ockeghem or Josquin, it became commonplace in the Venice of the Gabrieli family, forming the basis of the modern concertante style. 

This old custom of musical groups “in dialog,” originally found only in liturgical and sacred music, found a new place in the two following centuries’ courts. Here, after abandoning the charming stereophonic aims and the magnificence of polyphony, the instrumental version of this practice evolved to the taste of the new age, which had already turned to the style galant favored by noble amateurs. 

The Contrapuntus 13, BWV 1080, is included in the collection Die Kunst der Fuge (“The Art of Fugue”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). Probably started just before the Musikalisches Opfer (“Musical Offering”), it was dedicated in 1747 to Frederick II of Prussia, and is similar to Musikalisches Opfer in its intellectual and aesthetic features. The question of appropriate instrumentation in Die Kunst der Fuge remains unsolved. Did Bach even intend this work for performance, or was it merely an intellectual triumph expressed in writing? Those who look to the manuscript for clues about the correct instrumentation may conclude that the open score (where each part is on a separate staff) indicates something other than a keyboard instrument. However, this style of scoring for works of great contrapuntal complexity was an established practice, as seen in works of Johann Froberger and in I Fiori musicali by Girolamo Frescobaldi. Bach himself used this same system in the canonic variations on Vom Himmel hoch for organ and in the six-voice Ricercare of the Musikalisches Opfer. Beyond the debates of whether Die Kunst der Fuge is for organ or harpsichord is the recognition that Bach’s high level of musical abstraction has created a work that transcends instrumentality into the realm of pure music. 

Bach’s influence is evident in the work of his student Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780), who, after studying with Bach in Leipzig from 1726 to 1737, and often being chosen to play during the weekly meetings of the Collegium Musicum, also tried, without success, to succeed Bach at the Thomasschule in Leipzig. Krebs, who was organist in Zwickau (until 1744), in Zeitz (until 1756), and in Altenburg (until his death), wrote preludes, toccatas, fantasias, fugues, and chorales for organ. Krebs’s music retains Bach’s serious attitude about musical composition and melds it with the increasingly popular style galant. In the central slow movement of his Concerto in A minor, Krebs anticipates the atmosphere of Mozart’s adagios. 

Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782) was the youngest son of Johann Sebastian, and was known as “Milan’s Bach.” Educated in Berlin by his brother Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Christian moved to Italy in 1754 to study opera. In 1756 he became a student of Padre Martini’s in Bologna and soon thereafter became Catholic. In 1760 he attained the post of organist at Milan Cathedral. In was in Milan that Johann Christian had his first major success with his opera Artaserse (1761), which was later performed in many principal European cities. In contrast to Krebs, whose music reflected J. S. Bach’s stylistic influence, Johann Christian’s music completely suits his own age’s new taste, being closer in manner to that of the theatres than the cathedrals. In this new framework was set the Sonata in C Major, published in London with other sonatas in the years 1779–1780. 

Originally written for a four-hand performance, the third concerto by Padre Antonio Soler (1729–1783) was later arranged for two organs in Spain, according to the manuscript that was found in Braga’s library in Portugal. The presence of two “opposing” organs in the main churches was very common in Spain and influenced the compositions of the greatest Iberian composers, including José Blanco, Francisco Olivares, and Soler. Trained at Montserrat Abbey with José Elias (a student of Cabanilles), Soler entered the Escorial monastery in 1752. He remained there as choirmaster until his death in 1783. From 1752 to 1757 he was also a student of Domenico Scarlatti, who had settled in Madrid, and whose style Soler assimilated by adapting it to the Spanish tradition. Outstanding as a musical theorist, he wrote music for many other instruments in addition to the organ. The Seis conciertos para dos organos obligado (“Six Concertos for Organ Obbligato”) were dedicated to Gabriel Bourbon, son of King Charles III and a student of Soler’s. They are written in an elegant style that favors short phrases and repetitions—all meant to delight the young prince during the court’s concerts. The first tempo is usually a bipartite Allegro, the second is always a Minuet that sometimes develops with some variations, drawing on the popular Spanish diferencias (variations) and often mingled with the rondo form. 

The custom of writing for two keyboard instruments also found followers in Italy, as can be found in works by Luigi Cherubini, Baltasare Antonio Pfeyll, Bonaventura Terrini, Giovanni Bernardo Lucchinetti, and Gaetano Piazza. Piazza lived and worked in Milan in the second half of the eighteenth century. In 1775 he was an organist in the churches of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, San Francesco Fuori Porta, and San Damiano. In addition the Sonata in F Major, we know he also wrote for the theater (Demetrius, Pavia 1750 and The Chinese Hero, Milan 1757) as well as concertos for solo instruments and strings. The Sonata in F Major is composed of one movement only, as is the Sonata in D Major by Bonaventura Terreni, which is more articulated and varied in rhythm. In comparison, the Sonata Concertato by Severo Giussani provides four movements of contrasting tempos (Lento-Allegro-Andante-Allegro). – SILVIA PAPARELLI

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