Fortuna desperata: Gothic and Renaissance Organ Music Daniel Beilschmidt University Church of St Paul, Leipzig Genuin GEN17453. 77’22
I have been a regular visitor for Leipzig over many years, and was always fascinated by the ever-changing landscape of the city, not least in the construction of the striking new university buildings on the Augustusplatz (pictured). This includes the Paulinum, the combined assembly hall and university church, built on the site of the old St Paul’s University church which was controversely blown up in 1968 by the city’s then communist authorities. As well as a large multi-purpose organ at the liturgical ‘west-end’, there is to one side of the chancel a swallow’s-nest organ that will ultimately be based on the late Gothic/early Renaissance instrument later described by Michael Praetorius in his 1619 Syntagma Musicum. In its currently incomplete state, it reflects a late 15th-century Gothic ‘blockwerk’ organ, allowing for performance of an important but little known repertoire that forms the foundation of all later organ music.
JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 8
Organ Chorales of the Leipzig Manuscript
Ed. Jean-Claude Zehnder
Breitkopf & Härtel 2015
Edition Breitkopf EB8808
184pp + CD
Editions of Bach’s organ works are something of a minefield, even when there are clear autograph scores available. In many cases that is not the case, so the role of the editor and the availability and accuracy of available sources becomes an important consideration. Of all the publishers to be involved in Bach, Breitkopf & Härtel are perhaps the most appropriate. Founded in Leipzig in 1719 four years before Bach took up his post there, they were the first to publish the complete works of Bach, between 1851 and 1900 for the Bach-Gesellschaft. Unfortunately, at the moment, I only have access to one volume of their latest complete Bach Organ Works, so cannot comment on the 10 volume set as a whole.
The chorales from the Leipzig Manuscript are known by a variety of names, one of which is the ‘Eighteen Chorales’. This is misleading, not least because there are arguably either 15, 17 or 18 chorales in the collection. The first 13 Continue reading →
Leipzig Bachfest 2016 ‘Secrets of Harmony’
June 10-19 2016
Under the title of ‘Secrets of Harmony’, this year’s Leipzig Bachfest featured 114 events and welcomed visitors from 35 countries. Alongside the mainstream concerts were b@ch for us! events for young people and BACHmosphere concerts in venues like the Markt and the grand Hauptbahnhof. For many years now I have been able to review the whole of the Leipzig Bachfest but unfortunately, this year, my time in Leipzig was limited to just a few days. So I missed most of the opening weekend and the final few days.
“So glorious you stand, dear city”
12-21 June 2015
The festival motto reflects the fact that 2015 is the millennium of the first documentary record of Leipzig, when the Bishop of Merseburg mentioned the town of “urbe libzi” in his chronicle in 1015. The phrase So herrlich stehst du, liebe Stadt! is taken from Bach’s cantata Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn (BWV 119), written in 1723 in honour of the Leipzig city council, the ‘dear city’ clearly referring both to Jerusalem and Leipzig. It was performed by the Thomanerchor and the Händelfestspielorchester Halle at the opening concert of the festival (held, unusually, in the Nikolaikirche rather than the Thomaskirche, on 12 June, 5pm) where it followed Max Reger’s arrangement for organ of Bach’s Chromatische Fantasie und Fuge d-Moll, played by Stefan Kießling with commendable restraint.
Written within a few months of his arrival in Leipzig, Bach’s large scale Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn (one of many such ‘Ratswahl’ cantatas Continue reading →