Orgelkonzerte


J. S. Bach
Präludium und Fuge in D, BWV 532
Präludium und Fuge in G, BWV 541
Präludium in H, BWV 544
Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter, BWV 650
An Wasserflüssen Babylon, BWV 653b, Doppio pedale
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 660

Passacaglia und Fugue in C-moll, BWV 582

One of the great glories of the organ literature, the Pas­sa­cag­lia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, is found in several man­u­scripts known to have been written before 1710. It was pro­ba­bly composed shortly before Bach began his Weimar tenure, possibly in response to the death of Dietrich Bux­te­hude in 1707. A passacaglia is a form of continuous variations over, under, or around a recurring theme. The first four mea­sures of Bach’s theme are the same as a little pas­sa­cag­lia by André Raison, and also similar to two works, a master of the passacaglia and chaconne forms.
    Bach doubles the four-bar theme, however, and then builds 20 variations on it, a symmetrical complex of equal appeal to head and heart. The theme also bears a possible relationship to the beginning of the Lutheran “Our Father”
L'Organo Piccolo Spoleto,
The Citadel, Charleston, SC, May 29, 2016
Cornell Zimmer, Opus 135.

chorale, according to the Dutch scholar Piet Kee, who be­lieves that the whole Passacaglia is based on the Lord’s Prayer as elaborated in Andreas Werckmeister’s book Paradoxal-Discourse, which was published in 1707.
    When Bach seems to have exhausted all the possibilities of his theme in 20 variations, he then takes those first four measures of it as the main subject in an immediately ensuing fugue, with many new countersubjects. For Bach, fugue is never a purely intellectual conceit, but rather a technique for intensification. Beginning as it does with the vast energies al­ready ac­cum­ulated by the Passacaglia, this fugue ge­ne­rates explosive climactic power and thrust, relentlessly logical, yet expressively exalting.
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Bach’s eight-measure theme presented 20 times with variations both above and beneath.

Franz Liszt

Fantasie und Fuge über den chorale “Ad nos
salutarem undam” S. 259 Moderato—Allegro—
Tempo giusto Recitativo—Adagio—Allegro
deciso—Allegretto con moto (Fugue)—Adagio

Gebet (Ave Maria), S.20
L'Organo Piccolo Spoleto,
The Citadel, Charleston, SC, May 29, 2016
Cornell Zimmer, Opus 135.

In February 1847, Franz Liszt met the Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein while giving concerts in Kiev. Already separated from the husband to whom she had been married when only 17, Carolyne fell in love with the pianist, who was also at a personal crossroads. Weary from almost a decade of constant touring, Liszt completed some further en­gage­ments and then abandoned the public concert stage as a pianist, staying with Carolyne on her Ukrainian estate from the fall of 1847 until January 1848, when the couple left for Weimar.
    Years before, the Grand Duke Carl Alexander had offered Liszt the post of Kapellmeister-in-Extra­or­di­nary, an ap­peal­ingly grandiose music directorship that Liszt’s relentless touring precluded accepting. Now Liszt wanted to devote himself more to composition. Weimar offered him an or­chest­ra and an opera house, and a kindred spirit in the Grand Duke, with whom Liszt hoped to create an “Athens of the North.” This dream went unfulfilled, but Liszt wrote some of his finest music during the 18 years he spent in Weimar.
    Much of Liszt’s organ music comes from this period. Previously he had been an organ dabbler, interested in the instrument and playing privately on pedal pianos. His only known public performance on organ had come in 1843, when he played a benefit program at a church in Moscow. In


Weimar Liszt found himself particularly close to the spirit of J.S. Bach who had lived and worked in Weimar more than a century before as an employee of Duke Wilhelm Ernst, a direct ancestor of Carl Alexander. Bach’s complete organ works had been published for the first time in 1844, and among the earliest works that Liszt completed in Weimar were trans­criptions for piano of six of Bach’s Preludes and Fugues for organ.
    The first of Liszt’s organ works, however, was directly inspired not by Bach but by Giacomo Meyerbeer and the huge success of his opera
Le prophète in 1849. The following year Liszt wrote a Fantasy and Fugue on the Chorale “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam,” the rabble-rousing call to repentance and re-baptism that the three Anabaptists sing in Act I of Le prophète. This is a monumental work in sound and time, a work that grafted Liszt’s transcendental piano technique, flair for orchestral color, and ideas about thematic transformation onto the formal models of Bach’s organ music. There were more recent examples for Liszt—Mendelssohn’s three Pre­ludes and Fugues and six organ Sonatas, and Robert Schumann’s works for pedal piano, par­ti­cularly the six Fugues on the Name of Bach—but this was an utterly distinctive work in its virtuoso spirit and vast scale.

  • Lithographic engraving by Charles-Jérémie Fuhr of a photograph of Giacomo Meyerbeer by Pierre Petit, published by Lemercier et Cie (Paris), 1860. [Source: BNF Est.MeyerbeerG.024]

Meyerbeer Le Prophète: Act I—"Ad nos, ad salutarem undam"

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Meyerbeer’s theme from his opera Le Prophète, which Liszt uses to create a three-movement, half-hour work—the first organ “symphony” in the literature.

    


    Unlike many of Bach’s works with a bipartite title—Prelude and Fugue, Fantasy and Fugue, Toccata and Fugue—Liszt’s Ad nos Fantasy and Fugue is really in three main parts. The opening “Fantasy” states the theme plainly in C minor and then takes it through a creative rush of transformations and contrasting textures. It comes to a close in a recitative section, and then takes lyrical flight in a warm “Adagio” in F-sharp major, the key Liszt favored for exalted religious subjects and as remote as possible from the flat keys dominating the “Fantasy.” The martial and freely developed “Fugue” returns the music to C minor, before closing with the chorale blazing away in C major.
    This may have been altogether too original for practical use, at least immediately. (The pedal part was probably beyond Liszt’s own abilities.) In December of 1851 Liszt wrote to his publisher, Breitkopf and Härtel, offering to make known, “as a kind of curiosity, a very long piece I composed last winter on the chorale ‘Ad nos’ from Le prophète. If by chance you should think it well to publish this long Prelude,

followed by an equally long Fugue, I could not be otherwise than much obliged to you...but I dare not press you too much for fear that you may think that my Fugue has more advantage in remaining unknown to the public in so far that it is in manuscript, than if it had to submit to the same fate after having been published by your care.”
    Breitkopf and Härtel did publish the Fantasy and Fugue in 1852 (as well as a solo piano version), and Liszt’s fears proved well-founded. It did not have its premiere until 1855, when Alexander Winterberger played it for the inauguration for a new organ in the Merseburg Cathedral. Built by Friedrich Landegast, this instrument was much the largest in Germany at the time, with 5,686 pipes and 37 chimes. Liszt had a new piece in mind for the occasion, a Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H (in German solfege syllables Bach’s name yields the pitches B-flat, A, C, and B-natural), but that work was not finished. Liszt coached Winterberger extensively on Ad nos, and Winterberger toured it and the completed B-A-C-H Prelude and Fugue (which Liszt dedicated to him) the following season to rave reviews.

Les hommes français
Jean Langlais: Dialogue sur les mixtures
César Franck: Prélude, Fugue et Variation
Frank Bridge: Adagio in E
Louis Vierne: Carillon