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Organ Performance
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Fugue in C minor by J.S. Bach

The Bach Fugue in c-minor, BWV 575, is one of what I describe as Bach’s ‘orphan’ works. That is to say it is not paired with a prelude in the typical ‘binary form’ so prevalent in the music of Bach and other 17th and 18th century composers. Understood to be a comparatively early work, this piece represents Bach as he is still testing his compositional and virtuosic powers. The fugue is crowned with a toccata like cadenza culminating in a pedal solo. As with all of the music on my “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’ disk, this piece is recorded on the 68 rank four manual and pedal Austin at First Presbyterian Church in Orange, NJ. Click on the image at the left if you would like hear this track.

Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C by D. Buxtehude

One of Dietrich Buxtehude’s (c.1673-1707) most renowned organ works, this three part work begins with flourishes exchanged between the manuals and pedals. The episodic nature of the work allows for much registrational contrast. Here we see the employment of a typical Baroque device -- the co-opting of folk-dance forms as structural elements of composition. It’s difficult to say how conscious or perhaps self conscious composers of the Baroque era were about the use of these forms; that is to say, I am not sure anyone can be certain just how truly ‘chaconne-like’ Buxtehude intended his contrapuntally stylized chaconne at the end of this work to be. I’ve attempted to play the ending section with some sense of abandon (as I imagine the 16th century Spanish chaconne might have been danced, though of course many other interpretations are possible.

Fantasia by J. Sweelinck

Jan Pieterswoon Sweelinck was born in Deventer, Netherlands in 1562 and lived until 1621. This Dutch composer, whose music encompasses the very end of the Renaissance and the genesis of the baroque era, is among Europe’s first major keyboard composers and may be said to be one of the founding fathers of the North German organ compositional tradition. It is believed that Sweelinck began his career as an organist at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam in 1577, when he was 15 years old. He would hold this post for the remainder of his life. This fantasia is perhaps one of Sweelinck’s better know compositions. Essentially, the work is a fugue based on several subjects with increasingly developed episodic variations. The listener will note the prevalence of both Renaissance rhythms and the beginnings of ‘modern’ major/minor tonality.

Prelude in G Major by J.S. Bach

Bach’s G-Major prelude, BWV 568, is another example of what I call an orphan piece. It is possible there may have been a fugue composed as a companion to this lively, somewhat simple prelude, that is now lost to us, or perhaps Bach improvised a fugue when he performed this prelude. Either way, we once again have an example of the composer stretching his compositional imagination and organistic prowess in this work.