Toccata in F, BuxWV 156—Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Passacaglia in d, BuxWV 161—
Partite diverse sopra il Corale “O Gott du frommer Gott,” BWV 767 —Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Pièce d’Orgue in G, BWV 572—Bach
Jesu, meine Freude—Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780)
Choral alio modo
Christ lag in Todesbanden—Krebs
Choral alio modo
Andante in F, KV 616—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Sonata No. 6 in d, Op. 65-6—Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Choral - Andante sostenuto - Allegro molto
Fuga (Sostenuto e legato)
Dieterich Buxtehude was one of the most influential composers of the North German Organ School during the second half of the seventeenth century. His Toccata in F exhibits the characteristics typical of Schnitger organs, with a lively and brilliant sound that comes from sensitively voiced pipes. This piece, with its many contrasting sections, shows the free spirit of the stylus fantasticus with its strict contrapuntal sections interspersed with free improvisatory sections. Compared to the other Toccata in F (BuxWV 157), which has stronger plenum quality, Toccata (BuxWV 156) has a clear chamber-music-like quality with its manifestation of various colorful registrations. Different combinations of each stop try to speak their own stories according to the masterful direction of the composer.
Buxtehude’s Passacaglia in d has a very clear construction, with four sections of similar length each repeating the four-measure-long subject seven times in the bass. (Some scholars compare this pattern to the cycle of the moon.) The serene opening section, in d minor, proceeds to the F-major second section with little more movement. The third section is quite dramatic and is the actual climax of this piece. The final section in d minor is calm and reflective.
J. S. Bach’s chorale and eight variations are based upon the text of the prayer O Gott du frommer Gott, a plea for safety from all dangers — including death — and for the help of God in order to endure all troubles. The general mood of the chorale is rather somber, with its use of c minor. While the first variation (Partita II) is a bicinium with left-hand ostinato, the second variation (Partita III) is freer with its four ascending sixteenth notes (a tetrachord as “suspirans”). The third variation is a bicinium of clear contrapuntal texture with an active bass leap. The fourth is similar to the second in its free use of the tetrachord.
Variation five sounds like a French basse de trompete, with its bold leap in the left hand. In the first part of the sixth variation, the tetrachord is developed further in descending motion like the other even-numbered variations. But in the latter half, the dotted rhythms set a brighter mood. Variation seven is a typical lament with its heavy use of chromaticism, and it aptly reflects the text of the death of Christ. The final variation is a kind of concerto movement with echo passages. While a slow andante is inserted in the middle, the opening and closing sections are lively and quick.
The French title of Bach’s Pièce d’Orgue is given in several sources, including the copies by J. G. Walther and Oley. Three different sections of the piece are without thematic relationship, but they seem to have some common features in harmonic continuity. While the opening section has a solo line, the middle section has a thick five-voice texture with harmonic progressions of seventh and ninth chords similar to the French plein jeu. Bach seems to be experimenting with the new horizon of the organ sound and its harmonic vocabulary. In the final section, the fast broken chords with acciaccatura (neighboring notes added outside the consonant notes of each chord), along with the chromatically descending pedal line, add to the sense of drama. This is the obvious plenum piece which employs the strong and brilliant mixture of the Schnitger tradition on top of the pedal reed.
Johann Ludwig Krebs has recently been recognized as the last great organ master of the eighteenth century. He was the Bach pupil who best succeeded in continuing the Bach tradition at the end of the Baroque era. He served as the court musician at Altenburg from 1756 to his death.
Among Krebs’s organ works, the “Clavierübung” of 13 chorale settings is unique because it survives as a whole in a printed collection (1752/No.1-7, 1753/No. 8-13). Each chorale melody is presented in three arrangements. First he offers a prelude in the style gallant, followed by a contrapuntally strict chorale-based duet (Jesu, meine Freude) or trio with the melody in the upper or middle voice (Christ lag in Todesbanden). The Final chorale alio modo is written as a two-part, figured movement. The writing seems to be more pianistic, as it doesn’t call for the pedal, but it also works fine on the organ when the final chorale is played on contrasting organo plenum after the elegant sounds of the previous movements.
There is a remarkable organ by T. H. Trost in the Schlosskirche at Altenburg. Like his father before him, and his son and grandson after him, Krebs was the organist of this castle chapel, holding the position for 45 years. J. S. Bach examined the new organ in 1739, and remarked on the great beauty of each stop. The instrument, with two manuals and pedal in a wide case, illustrates central German trends of the time. The K'Arts Hall organ has similar aspects, although on a smaller scale.
Although Mozart thought very highly of the organ, he actually wrote very few organ works. He was appointed as a court organist at the cathedral in Salzburg for a number of years at the end of the 1770s, and was known as a superb organist and improviser. Mozart’s Andante in F was written in May of 1791 for the mechanical, self-playing organ belonging to Count Deym Müller’s museum. At that time, the instrument was known to have two 8-foot flute stops. The piece, the manuscript of which has been preserved, was originally published as a version for two hands on piano. With the Classical balance of its structure the music is filled with the charm and grace typical of Mozart’s late style.
Felix Mendelssohn, who is regarded as the major leading force in the Bach revival of the nineteenth century, was quite fond of organs of the eighteenth-century style. He was hardly influenced by the trend in organ building introduced by E. F. Walcker around 1840. Mendelssohn demonstrated his taste in organs when he chose the organ of St. Catharine’s church instead of Walcker’s brand-new organ in neighboring St. Paul’s church for the premiere performance of his organ sonatas. Compositionally, too, Mendelssohn generally remained within the boundaries of traditional organ style, shunning the new “orchestral” organ style which was developed further by Franz Liszt just after Mendelssohn’s death.
In 1844, Mendelssohn tried several registrations of his newly composed six organ sonatas at the Stumm organ in Frankfurt with his friend, Dr. Fritz Schlemmer. The Stumm organ is similar to the organ at the K'Arts Hall in size and style, with several 8-foot stops including Viol de Gamba, colorful reeds, bright mixtures, and various mutations. But the K'Arts Hall organ has much stronger pedal division.
Mendelssohn’s Sonata No. 6 is based upon the chorale “Vater unser im Himmelreich” (The Lord’s Prayer). The first movement consists of the chorale and four variations in the key of d minor.While the first variation has its chorale melody in the soprano, the second variation in 12/8 meter employs pedal obligato under the chorale. In the third variation, a “sighing motive” is developed that brings to mind people wailing in repentance for their sins. The variation has fast and flashing arpeggios in both hands, and the melody in the pedal. The majestic fugue subject is also derived from the chorale melody. The calm and slow finale closes peacefully in D major.
– Ja kyung Oh