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Bach and the Organ.

Bach and the Organ. Edited by Matthew Dirst. (Bach Perspectives, vol. 10.) Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016. [ix, 124 p. ISBN 9780252040191 (cloth), $60; ISBN 9780252098413 (e-book), $30.] Music examples, illustrations, index, work lists.

For this latest volume in the Bach Perspectives series, Matthew Dirst edits essays by prominent scholars Lynn Edwards Butler, Matthew Cron, Robin A. Leaver, and Christoph Wolff, who presented earlier versions of their essays at "Bach and the Organ," a conference sponsored by the American Bach Society, the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative, and the Westfield Center for Early Keyboard Studies, and held at the Eastman School of Music in September 2012 ( [accessed 18 February 2018]). Two additional essays, by George B. Stauffer and Gregory Butler, were solicited for this volume. In the preface, Dirst explains that Bach was known during his lifetime as a "great player and an expert judge of new instruments" (p. vii). This volume adds to the extensive scholarship concerning Bach's organ compositions and his interaction with the organ culture of his time.

In the essay "Bach's Report on Johann Scheibe's Organ for St. Paul's Church, Leipzig: A Reassessment," Lynn Edwards Butler states that, according to a 1718 memorandum by Daniel Vetter, Bach "could not praise and laud [the organ] enough, especially its rare stops" (Vetter quoted and trans, by Butler, p. 2). She mentions the impact of negative comments about the organ by Ernst Flade, a twentieth-century biographer of Gottfried Silbermann, and others, including a nephew of Silbermann who saw the organ in 1741. Butler assesses documents from the Leipzig University Archives to reassess Bach's report. Schiebe himself wrote many of the documents, which discuss the case, wind system, frame, stops, voicing, and tuning; describe the lighting effected by a nearby window; and mention the one-year guarantee and the bill. Apparently, Scheibe was not compensated at the amount he requested, although he maintained the organ until his death in 1748. According to Johann Nikolaus Forkel, Bach found the work "really good, and sum agreed upon too small" (p. 15). Bach also praised the "rare stops."

Leaver's essay, "Bach's Choral-Buch? The Significance of a Manuscript in the Sibley Library," is a "description of that manuscript, a review of its provenance and content, and a discussion of its significance as a possible witness to the practices of the circle of organists who studied with Bach in the 1730s and 1740s" (p. 16). Research on the provenance indicates that the manuscript may have been listed in two different catalogs and was owned by music theorist Heinrich Schenker and Bach biographer Philipp Spitta, among others. The paper's watermark is similar to those in books originating in Dresden in the 1740s. Bach apparently had many Dresden connections, including his son Wilhelm Friedemann, who was organist of the Sophienkirche in Dresden until 1746. The Choral-Buch has simple organ accompaniments with bass figures for congregational chorales and may have served as a pedagogical tool for Bach's students. Spitta, however, did not believe Bach wrote the Choral-Buch, because it did not have "settings deemed daring enough to confuse the Arnstadt congregation" (p. 26). The essay concludes with an extensive table listing the contents of the 285 pages of chorales and alternative settings of the same texts.

In "Miscellaneous Organ Trios from Bach's Leipzig Workshop," Stauffer argues that the appearance of the Six Trio Sonatas for organ, BWV 525-30, "emerges not as a sudden, isolated event, but rather as the logical outcome of a period of concentrated study and experimentation with the free organ trio" (p. 59). He discusses the origin of the organ trios (including BWV 21/la; 583-87; 790a; 1014/3a; and 1039/la, 2a, 4a) and the organ concerto, BWV 597, and proposes that they stem from Bach's tenure in Leipzig from 1725 to 1730 or so. Though Stauffer believes that BWV 597, 790a, 1014/3a, and 1039a were created in Bach's workshop by colleagues and students, he asserts that BWV 21/la and 584 are authentic works by Bach. He includes a structural chart of BWV 583, which he describes as an "original organ work rather than a transcription of an instrumental trio sonata movement" (p. 56).

Christoph Wolff contributes the first of two essays about organ concertos. In "Did J. S. Bach Write Organ Concertos? Apropos the Prehistory of Cantata Movements with Obbligato Organ," he discusses four cantatas that contain concerted movements: Wir miissen durch viel Trilbsal, BWV 146; Geist und Seele wird verwirret, BWV 35; Gott soil allein mein Herze haben, BWV 169; Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen, BWV 49 (1726). He describes as "an extraordinary phenomenon" Bach's presentation of these concerted movements in a Lutheran worship service, transforming "the church at least momentarily into a concert hall" (p. 60). The first of the cantatas, BWV 146, was performed on Jubilate Sunday in 1726 or 1727; the later date is when Augustus II, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony (1670-1733), attended Leipzig's spring fair and suggests that the cantata was part of a festive Abend-Music in his honor a few days after Jubilate Sunday. Wolff discusses the origins of the concertos for harpsichord BWV 1052-53 and the autograph manuscript.

Gregory Butler's article, "The Choir Loft as Chamber: Concerted Movements by Bach from the Mid- to Late 1720s," further discusses the close interrelationships between the music Bach composed for the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig and the music he wrote (or rewrote) for his church services. Here the focus is on the Concerto in E Major for harpsichord and string orchestra, BWV 1053, assembled ca. 1738. Its three movements appeared earlier in BWV 169 and BWV 49. Butler points out that handwritten clefs in sources support his thesis that transposing parts were required to perform the music in a new key. He also believes that the concerto and the cantata versions (with obbligato organ) were written about the same time and form a matrix of pieces performed in the fall of 1726. He connects other groups of pieces and elaborates on Wolff's ideas of an early version of BWV 1053, but suggests that if this concerto existed, it would have been in the key of D major, not E major. To support his argument, he addresses issues of temperament and tuning. Butler concludes that if Bach felt confined as Leipzig's cantor, his appearance during fairs as director and soloist, performing different versions of his concerted movements for chamber and for church, may have been an effort to reach a wider audience in Leipzig.

The last article is by Matthew Cron: "Music from Heaven: An Eighteenth-Century Context for Cantatas with Obbligato Organ." Referencing several Bach cantata movements at the end of the article, the author begins with a discussion of heavenly images and concepts that organs may have engendered: images of angels, or sun and stars, in carved busts or statues on organ cases; elevation of the organ on church and cathedral walls (including one above the ceiling in the Weimar Schlosskapelle); appearance of the organ in printed scenes of heavenly (and earthly) music making, such as an image from 1659 that has musicking angels surrounding an organ; and portrayals of the organ in printed works by Michael Praetorius, Johann Friedrich Walther, and Joachim Wagner, and in hymnal prefaces and sermons that refer to heavenly or comforting sounds. Georg Philipp Telemann's cantata Der Himmel ist offen is an example of hymn singing as preparation for heavenly choir participation (pp. 99-104). Bach's obbligato organ cantatas--including BWV 146, 170, 71, and 194--also reminded the listeners of heaven. Also briefly discussed is an ode to the organ by Friedrich Wilheim Zacharia, a student at the University of Leipzig in the mid-1740s.

All of the writers in this volume are well-known scholars and researchers; the list of contributors briefly summarizes their biographies. Rich with information on various aspects of the organ music of Bach, the essays are of interest to Bach researchers, organists, organ history specialists, and other musicians, and is a worthy addition to all libraries.


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Author:Schroeder, Joy
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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