Bach's Organ Sonatas

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Belle
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Bach's Organ Sonatas

Post by Belle » Fri May 04, 2018 4:15 pm

All of Bach: the Netherland's Bach project is working it's way through the performance of the composer's oeuvre. This is an incredible site and achievement and supported in the Netherlands by corporations.

I did not know Bach composed "Sonatas" and when I read the blurb underneath each one I learned that these were, in fact, 'trio sonatas' for the organ alone. Before I started listening and after I'd finished reading I paused to ask myself how these were going to be different from any of the other complex, multi-layered polyphony in Bach's other works. It soon became apparent that they are different as the clear 'instrumental' lines are in evidence all the way. They don't seem to become 'entangled' (for want of a better word) like Bach's other keyboard writing - which could be in five parts. All the more my admiration for the organist; surely the only musician who has to realize so many independent lines of music simultaneously - as opposed to the conductor who has to 'understand' all the different lines in a score.

http://allofbach.com/en/bwv/bwv-526/

This is written on the site below the second sonata:

Seated at his instrument, the organist may have the means at his disposal – but does he also have the mastery? This is a pertinent question in the case of Bach’s demanding organ sonatas, with their three fully autonomous parts in two keyboards and pedal.

jbuck919
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Re: Bach's Organ Sonatas

Post by jbuck919 » Fri May 04, 2018 6:19 pm

The Trio Sonatas are Bach's most difficult organ works. (The fact that with considerably practice I can play them is rather a cure for my inferiority complex.) In truth, they are conceptually instrumental trio sonatas, and have been recorded as such. The slow movement of the D major was re-purposed by Bach himself note for note (well,add continuo) as the slow movement of an instrumental sonata. I cannot find this on YouTube but someone else might.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Belle
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Re: Bach's Organ Sonatas

Post by Belle » Fri May 04, 2018 10:08 pm

It's a formidable skill to have!! Can you tell me why the manual on the organ about the second one seems to play sympathetically exactly the same as the one below it? Same with double manual harpsichords; I cannot see the point. Can you please clear that mystery up for me?

Also, I imagine you don't resort to the gyrations apparent in this performance:

http://allofbach.com/en/bwv/bwv-542/

Marc
Posts: 309
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Re: Bach's Organ Sonatas

Post by Marc » Sat May 05, 2018 12:27 pm

I guess you are referring to something that's called 'coupling'.
These old mechanic Dutch/German organs are built according to the so-called Werkprinzip: each manual is in fact the 'entrance' to one single instrument or 'work' (mostly called 'division').
When organ specifics are given, it's mostly done in this way: II/P or III/P, which means resp.: 2 divisions and pedalboard (like the organ in BWV 526), 3 divisions and pedalboard (like in BWV 542). Of course, there are many other possibilities.
All these divisions of Werkprinzip organs have their specific registers/stops and pipes, and, to create a more 'tutti' sound, in many cases these different divisions can be coupled.
Couplers can combine several manuals, which means that by pressing keys on one manual the keys on the connected manual will be pressed automatically as well, and so their registers and pipes will sound/speak, too. In organs with mechanic action this is exactly what happens (meaning that the organist has to press the key twice as hard), in organs with electric action the tones can be played without the keys of the coupled manual moving. In this case, the organist just about doesn't notice the coupler.

Belle
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Re: Bach's Organ Sonatas

Post by Belle » Sun May 06, 2018 8:45 pm

Thanks very much for this explanation. I think I get it!!

Marc
Posts: 309
Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 4:45 pm

Re: Bach's Organ Sonatas

Post by Marc » Sun May 06, 2018 11:16 pm

It's off topic, I realize, but here is a 'swift' example of how the organist uses a good ole 'slider coupling' (around 6:17) in Buxtehude's BuxWV 155 D minor Toccata. After Bernard Foccroulle's delicate push, the two upper manuals are coupled.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjHkzqSOxnw

jbuck919
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Re: Bach's Organ Sonatas

Post by jbuck919 » Mon May 07, 2018 6:33 pm

Marc wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 12:27 pm
I guess you are referring to something that's called 'coupling'.
These old mechanic Dutch/German organs are built according to the so-called Werkprinzip: each manual is in fact the 'entrance' to one single instrument or 'work' (mostly called 'division').
When organ specifics are given, it's mostly done in this way: II/P or III/P, which means resp.: 2 divisions and pedalboard (like the organ in BWV 526), 3 divisions and pedalboard (like in BWV 542). Of course, there are many other possibilities.
All these divisions of Werkprinzip organs have their specific registers/stops and pipes, and, to create a more 'tutti' sound, in many cases these different divisions can be coupled.
Couplers can combine several manuals, which means that by pressing keys on one manual the keys on the connected manual will be pressed automatically as well, and so their registers and pipes will sound/speak, too. In organs with mechanic action this is exactly what happens (meaning that the organist has to press the key twice as hard), in organs with electric action the tones can be played without the keys of the coupled manual moving. In this case, the organist just about doesn't notice the coupler.
The Trio Sonatas of course have nothing to do with coupling. Their premise is that each division can hold its own in a quasi-solo-instrumental line. In fact, the finest organs of Bach's time and the best of newer organs built generally in that style can do this in very multiple ways, without sacrificing the attractive timbre of any given line. The registration of these pieces is quite different from that of the works which require a plenum (full organ, quite possibly with coupled manuals).

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Marc
Posts: 309
Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 4:45 pm

Re: Bach's Organ Sonatas

Post by Marc » Tue May 08, 2018 1:39 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 6:33 pm
Marc wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 12:27 pm
I guess you are referring to something that's called 'coupling'.
These old mechanic Dutch/German organs are built according to the so-called Werkprinzip: each manual is in fact the 'entrance' to one single instrument or 'work' (mostly called 'division').
When organ specifics are given, it's mostly done in this way: II/P or III/P, which means resp.: 2 divisions and pedalboard (like the organ in BWV 526), 3 divisions and pedalboard (like in BWV 542). Of course, there are many other possibilities.
All these divisions of Werkprinzip organs have their specific registers/stops and pipes, and, to create a more 'tutti' sound, in many cases these different divisions can be coupled.
Couplers can combine several manuals, which means that by pressing keys on one manual the keys on the connected manual will be pressed automatically as well, and so their registers and pipes will sound/speak, too. In organs with mechanic action this is exactly what happens (meaning that the organist has to press the key twice as hard), in organs with electric action the tones can be played without the keys of the coupled manual moving. In this case, the organist just about doesn't notice the coupler.
The Trio Sonatas of course have nothing to do with coupling. Their premise is that each division can hold its own in a quasi-solo-instrumental line. In fact, the finest organs of Bach's time and the best of newer organs built generally in that style can do this in very multiple ways, without sacrificing the attractive timbre of any given line. The registration of these pieces is quite different from that of the works which require a plenum (full organ, quite possibly with coupled manuals).

Yep.
It was indeed 'off-topic', but I only wanted to answer Belle's question.

I.c. Bach's Trio Sonatas: they belong to my favs. They never bore me.

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