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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Three Organs and Three Organists

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Today’s crawl through the podcast vault is the first of three posts this month dedicated to the organ - part of our yearly tradition around the Lenten season to dedicate more space to organ and sacred music on our platforms.

This post (originally part of our Fall 2013 "Back to Bach" series) presents three organists, three organs and three very different works (or set of works).

Seeing all these colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you not think you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its thousand pipes?
This description of the mouth of a whale, quoted from the Melville novel Moby Dick makes a direct reference to the historic Christiaan Müller organ of the St.-Bavokerk in the Dutch city of Haarlem. It is one of the world's most historically important organs, whose original construction dates back 1735-38, thus contemporary to Bach’s lifetime. Dutch organist and composer Piet Kee performs eight short preludes and fugues for organ (BWV 553-560) on this venerable instrument.

Following the great set of 21 seminal preludes and fugues for organ in the BWV catalog, we find this set of eight “short” preludes and fugues believed for a long time to have been composed by one of Bach's pupils, Johann Tobias Krebs, these pieces came to be played often on the organ in the 19th and 20th centuries, and were especially useful as teaching pieces for beginners.

Presumably composed early in Bach's career, BWV 582 stands out as being Bach’s only Passacaglia and Fugue (compared to the many preludes, fantasias and toccatas and fugues found in the BWV catalog!) It is one of his most important and well-known works, and an important influence on 19th and 20th century passacaglias (notably, the ones by British-Canadian composer and organist Healy Willan).

Ian Tracey performs the work in this montage on the grand Blancfort organ at Our Lady of Incarnation church in Marbella, Spain. The organ is known as “organo del sol mayor”, which I can take as a double-entendre to mean either “high Sun” or “G Major”.

The 1960 Casavant et Frères organ at All Saints' Kingsway Anglican Church in Toronto (Interestingly, the organ was entirely refurbished in 2009) is the third instrument featured in our montage; a rare performance by Glenn Gould at the organ. Part of Gould’s training at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory (1942-46) included organ studies under Frederick C. Silvester, and Gould was known to have performed at Sunday services as a child.

In 1962, Gould recorded selections from Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of the Fugue) on the organ, and an overlapping set of selections on the piano as part of a CBC broadcast series (in 1967 and later in 1981).

The Art of the Fugue is a monumental (unfinished) masterpiece, written in the last decade of his life. It consists of 14 fugues and 4 canons, each using some variation of a single principal subject, and generally ordered to increase in complexity.

"The governing idea of the work", as Bach specialist Christoph Wolff put it, is "an exploration in depth of the contrapuntal possibilities inherent in a single musical subject."

ITYWLTMT Podcast Montage # 127 – Back to Bach – Orgelwerke
(Originally issued on Friday, October 18, 2013)

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 1750)

Passacaglia & Fugue in C minor, BWV 582
Ian Tracey
Blancfort Organ, Organo del Sol Mayor
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación de Marbella, España

Eight Short Preludes & Fugues (BWV 553 – 560)
Piet Kee
Müller Organ, St. Bavo, Haarlem,Netherlands

Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue ), BWV 1080 (Selections)
Glenn Gould
Casavant Organ, All Saint's Church, Kingsway, Toronto, Canada

March 7, 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Say your Prayers!" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel .Read more March 7 on our blogs in English and in French.

Updated Mar-04-2014 at 11:31 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music