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Trio Sonatas BWV 525-530
General Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Monthly Discussion September 2008 - Trio Sonatas for Organ BWV 525-530

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (September 3, 2008):
When is our monthly discussion going to begin? It was organ music for Sept. - right?

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 3, 2008):
[To Anne (Nessie Russell] You are correct.

The Order of Discussion for Bach's Instrumental Works is presented at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-NV.htm

For September 2008 the group of works for discussion are the 6 wonderful Trio Sonatas for organ BWV 525-530. So far no member has volunteered to lead this discussion. I wonder why, because the BRML includes several organists.

I hope somebody would step up. If anybody is interested to lead this discussion, please write to me off-list.

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (September 5, 2008):
Yesterday I downloaded these from EMusic. Bernard Legacé is the organist. I am a pianist and a beginning organist. I don't have the score for these works and my pedalling skills are not yet up to playing these so I am not volunteering to lead the discussion. I am enjoying them. I would appreciate names of recordings by other organists.

John Pike wrote (September 5, 2008):
[To Anne (Nessie Russell] One of my favourite recordings of these works is by John Butt. I have others, but the artists I cannot recall at present. I have Helmut Walcha playing just the first one, I think, which is enjoyable. I enjoy the Purcell Quartet's arrangement of no. 5, a great work, especially the last movement, which I absolutely adore, on Chandos Chaconne.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 5, 2008):
[To Anne (Nessie Russell] My favorite recoding of those on organ is John Butt's, and it's a steal at budget price. Amazon.com

But it's even more fun to listen to these pieces when played by ensembles. My favorite remains the one on guitar and harpsichord by Eliot Fisk and Albert Fuller (maybe still available from Musical Heritage Society). I reviewed that and some others here: Amazon.com

Michael Duron wrote (September 5, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Hello! My name is Michael. This is my first time responding to the group. Studied musicology at UCLA in the early nineties. I am a tenor at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church under the direction of Chris Walker in Westwood, Ca. and I play the cello. The trio sonatas are probably my favorite of Bach's organ output.

A definite must have recording, IMHO, is Kay Johannsen's wonderfully balanced performance on the Metzler Orgelbau AG Dietikon Organ at Stadkirche Stein am Rhein. It is a Hänssler Classic release, CD 92.099 Hännsler Edition Bachaksdemie 1998. It is available at most online retailers and you can special order it at Border's.

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (September 5, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< ... But it's even more fun to listen to these pieces when played by ensembles. ... >
What about Robert King's ensemble version.
Has someone heard it?

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (September 5, 2008):
Thanks to all for the suggestions. I have found a couple more recordings. Theses works are lovely.

Does anyone on the list play them?

Joshua (Josh) Klasinski wrote (September 5, 2008):
[To Michael Duron] I really enjoy the trio sonata in Eflat major as played by Helmut Walcha, it would be nice to hear another recording.

Being a tenor do you enjoy the Bach motets? or perhaps off topic the motets of that wonderful writer Buxtehude and Schutz? just outta curiousity,

thanks Michael,

Martin Spaink wrote (September 6, 2008):
< What about Robert King's ensemble version.
Has someone heard it? >
Yes, repeatedly with much pleasure derived from each instance. Though no big names feature in it, all soloists are absolutely up to it, very nice ensemble playing and an interesting choice in instrumentation that helps bring out the specific character given the tessitura of the parts. They use 2 violins (BWV 525, BWV 530), violin & viola (BWV 526), oboe & violin (BWV 527) and oboe and viola (BWV 529), and most effectively, oboe d'amore and viola in 528. Much recommended.

There is also an integral recording by London Baroque, all strings, 2 violins and violin and viola in BWV 526 and BWV 528. Then there are incidental recordings like the Kuykens in 525 with traverso and violin. I heared once Frans Brüggen, Walter van Hauwe and Kees Boeke on recorders and viola da gamba in BWV 527.

On organ I am partial, for once, to Ton Koopman.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 6, 2008):
Martin Spaink wrote:
< Yes, repeatedly with much pleasure derived from each instance. Though no big names feature in it, all soloists are absolutely up to it, very nice ensemble playing and an interesting choice in instrumentation that helps bring out the specific character given the tessitura of the parts. They use 2 violins (BWV 525, BWV 530), violin & viola (BWV 526), oboe & violin (BWV 527) and oboe and viola (BWV 529), and most effectively, oboe d'amore and viola in 528. Much recommended. >
I like it too, but I think I like Musica Pacifica's as well or better. Theirs uses recorder, violin, cello, and harpsichord: Amazon.com

Hazelzet and Ogg did four of them (BWV 525, BWV 526, BWV 527, BWV 528) as a duo on Baroque flute and harpsichord. Verbruggen and Meyerson did a different four (BWV 525, BWV 527, BWV 529, BWV 530) on recorder and harpsichord.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 9, 2008):
Trio Sonatas for Organ BWV 525-530 - Provenance

Thomas Braatz contributed Provenance page, including score examples, for the discussion of the Trio Sonatas BWV 525-530.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV525-530-Ref.htm
Linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NVD/BWV525-530.htm

Santu de Silva wrote (September 9, 2008):
My favorite recording was E. Power Biggs, on LP. His organ recording seems to not be available on CD, but a recording by him on the pedal-harpsichord is. I liked his organ version a little better.

Francis Browne wrote (September 15, 2008):
MD:Trio Sonata BWV 525 - not for organ?

The trio sonatas BWV525 are the works for discussion this month, but it is only today that I found time to listen some of this marvellous music and the discussion seems to have petered out some time ago. It would be a pity if this initiative were to come nothing since discussions of a wider range of Bach's music could add something worthwhile to the list and provide a resource for all who love Bach's music. With more enthusiasm than judgement therefore I shall put forward some very inexpert views -and I shall be delighted if they provoke those who are better informed to comment .

The six sonatas contain a great variety of music, but to give a focus to my remarks I have concentrated initally on the first movement of the F major Sonata BWV 525 . Bach seems to hava knack of beginning his series of works with a movement that is particularly striking -the opening movements of the Well Tempered Clavier, the cello suites, the partitas for keyboard at once come to mind. Here also the first movement is immediately appealing with the simplicity of genius: the opening three note phrase occurs constantly throughout the movement in various forms that in a good performance seem wonderfully inventive .

Let me confess that I got to know these works firstly through the recording by London Baroque -this is an arrangement by Richard Gwilt for two violins, cello, harpsichord/organ. Kirk McElhearn's review
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NonVocal/Organ-TrioSonatas-LondonBaroque.htm

is eloquent and perceptive,and I agree with his very positive evaluation- indeed I found such delight in these performances that I came to think of the arrangement as being the original form of these trio sonatas and the version for organ as if it were a transcription. This perverse ,counterfactual approach was only reinforced when the next version which I came to know was the equally distinguished version by the Purcell Quartet on Chandos, arranged by Richard Boothby.

It is not that the organ versions I listened to were poorly performed. Ton Koopman on the Garrels Orgel of the Grote Kerk Maasluis and Wolfgang Rübsam in his Philips recording on the Metzler organ of St Nikolaus Frauenfield give differing but excellent performances . But once a prejudice is established it is hard to shift : the more I listen to these works, the more I prefer the arrangements to the organ. And now my prejudice has been reinforced further by sampling the fifteen versions available on the Naxos Musical Library .(Just type BWV 525 in the Search box). There are ten organ recordings, the two arrangements I have already mentioned, and three arrangements for different instruments .

Bach's organ music is the section of his works that I know least well. I have been exploring Rübsam's collected recording gradually and with great enjoyment . But -and I ask pardon of all the organists on the list for stating the blindingly obvious - in listening to these 10 performances I have been struck as never before by how much difference the instrument used makes . Some organs are smooth ,ponderous, weighty in their sound, others are far more reedy, hollow, plangent. In some cases the upper part is very clearly distinguished, in others blended in far more with the lower parts-and this makes for a great diversity in performance. For the record the ten performances available on Naxos are:

Wolfgang Rübsam on Naxos
Kay Johannsen on Hanslerr
Hans Fagius on BIS
Bernard Lagacé on Analekta
Karl Vuole on Alba
Gerhard Weinberger on CPO
Gaba Lehotka on Hungariton (on 'the oldest organ in Hungary ' - I believe it)
Walter Kraft on Musical Concepts
Franz Raml on Oehms Classics
Jacques van Oortmerssen on Challenge Classics

There is a great variety of organs and performances here -some take over 4 minutes, others are close to 2 min 30s. Curiously (Rübsam's later performance seems ponderous and heavyhanded in comparison to his earlier version.I am puzzled that so outstanding a musician can revise his view of a work in what seems so clearly the wrong way.) Much of the music making by these organists is excellent, but it is again the three arrangements that interested me the most.

On Hanslerr Ingo Goritzki arranges the sonatas for oboe and harpsichord and performs them with Hans Joachim-Erhard -the oboe seems at times too prominent but in general this works excellently. Similarly , the Arion Ensemble on Analekta give delightful perfromances with an arrangement for flute, viloin and harpsichord.

But the version I found most interesting was on Lyrichord Early Music by Shawn Leopard and John Paul 'performed on two Lautenwercke' -I thought this might make it more difficult to follow the various parts but it proves to be a striking and enjoyable way of realising this music.

I shall enjoy exploring this music further - both on organs and in arrangements- but I would be interested to hear from anyone who knows this music why they think it is better played on an organ.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 15, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
< But the version I found most interesting was on Lyrichord Early Music by Shawn Leopard and John Paul 'performed on two Lautenwercke' - I thought this might make it more difficult to follow the various parts but it proves to be a striking and enjoyable way of realising this music. >
Huh, I had never heard of this. I just looked it up on eMusic to get a sample, and, dang, that's a nice arrangement! Thanks for the heads-up!

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 16, 2008):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Yup, the Leopard/Paul disc is a fine way to hear the music. A little monochromatic after a while, but clear.

This morning I pulled out the Robert King recording after some years away from it, and was pleasantly surprised by the nicely-timed shaping of the phrasing.

Michael Duron wrote (September 16, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] You point out many parallels between BWV 525-530 and other major Bach compositions which I find very compelling, not only as a listener, but as a performer of Bach's music.

Alas, I can stumble thro

Michael Duron wrote (September 16, 2008):
Please forgive the accidental sending of a premature e-mail mistake! As I was saying, I can barely fumble through some of the trio sonatas on organ, while on the cello suites I am quite familiar with playing all of the six suites.(the 6th suite is really difficult to play though!)

What I find most striking between these two works is the balance between them. I feel a sense of completeness and totality in the suites. They are, after all, a method for improving finger technique and the trio sonatas, in my opinion, offer a similar balance in the sense of completeness. It is true however, that the Trio Sonatas are not "method or technique" compositions in original creation, but the way Bach expresses improvisational and compositional technique is breathtaking. It's one of those wonderful things in music to experience as listener and musician, that the older I get, the more I find in Bach's music that comes as a revelation to me!

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 16, 2008):
Trio Sonatas for Organ BWV 525-530 - Previous Discussions
In order to feed the current discussion of the Trio Sonatas for Organ BWV 525-530, I have compiled for you all the pervious discussions of these works found in my archive (2001-2006).
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NVD/BWV525-530-Gen1.htm

The Instrumental works for discussion this month and the following are now accessed directly from the Home Page of the BCW.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/ [right side)

I hope this would encourage the participation of more members in the Instrumental discussions.

Jane Newble wrote (September 16, 2008):
MD:Trio Sonata BWV 525 -not for organ?

Fracis Browne wrote:
< The six sonatas contain a great variety of music, but to give a focus to my remarks I have concentrated initally on the first movement of the F major Sonata BWV 525 . Bach seems to have a knack of beginning his series of works with a movement that is particularly striking -the opening movements of the Well Tempered Clavier, the cello suites, the partitas for keyboard at once come to mind. Here also the first movemenis immediately appealing with the simplicity of genius: the opening three note phrase occurs constantly throughout the movement in various forms that in a good performance seem wonderfully inventive . >
The recurring triads in the first movement are fascinating. I have only heard the trio sonatas performed on the organ, but I am going to have to find out what The King’s Consort CD is like.

So far, my favourite is Bine Bryndorf on the Garnison Church organ in Copenhagen (reconstruction of an old baroque organ). The three parts of the music are very easy to follow, and very much like the way she plays this music.

One question:
On the Bine Byndorf CD the first movement is "without designation". On the Lionel Rogg performance it is "Tempo Giusto", and Brilliant Classics (Hans Fagius) has "Allegro Moderato". Does anyone know why?

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (September 21, 2008):
I was very interested in the comments Francis made. I have these sonatas recorded on organ by Bernard Lagacé. After reading Francis' post I went to e-music and bought BWV 525 by the Purcell Quartet and the London Baroque. In the fast movements I much preferred the instrumental versions. Perhaps this is because the organ recording was rather slow. I almost always prefer a quick Allegro. I found the instrumental not as satisfying in the Adagio.

I don't think I have a prejudge. I play the organ and have done a lot with instrumental ensembles. Love both!

Leo Ditvoorst wrote (September 22, 2008):
Trio sonata

Bach wrote the triosonata for practice by his son Wilhelm Friedemann. Forkel, Bach's first biographer, who drew heavily on the reminiscences of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, states categorically that Bach composed these Trio Sonatas in order to perfect the pedal technique of his son Wilhelm Friedemann, an objective which, as Forkel further adds, appears to have been admirably achieved. Despite the lively, tuneful character of these almost dance-like pieces, they do in fact conceal a wealth of technical difficulties, almost traps, for the player, particularly in demanding total independence of hands and feet. Complex rhythms and note values are set in deliberate conflict as between hands and feet. His son had to practice to use both hands and feet (on the pedal) independently. However his son probably practiced at home on a instrument called a pedal harpsichord.

I know of two recordings on pedal harpsichord but I did not hear them because I can not find them. One by E. Power Biggs on Sony and one by Lorenz Mikulas (?).

Francis Browne wrote (September 23, 2008):
MD: BWV 525-530 :organ or arrangement?

Are these trio sonatas better played on an organ -the instrument for which Bach intended them -or do they work equally well arranged for other instruments?

I raised this question when I wrote about the first movement of BWV 525 last week. I was hoping that some knowledgeable organist might come forward in defence of their instrument.Nessie indeed was kind enough to say that she was interested in what I had written and had listened to 2 of the arrangements which I praised -and despite being an organist she enjoyed the music played on other instruments. I'm delighted that she shares my enjoyment of performances of London Baroque and the Purcell Quartet, but my question remains unanswered.

I had anticipated that an organist might argue that Bach was a great master of the instrument and his writing in these trio sonatas exploited potentialities that it was impossible to convey in an arrangement -perhaps the use of the pedal and different registrations. But other organists must have concluded that my ignorance was invincible, and so I listened again to the four recordings that I have - two organ(Rübsam on Philips and Koopman), the two arrangements just mentioned- to see if I could discern for myself any way in which the arrangements fell short of the organ.

This time I focussed on the first movement Vivace of the last sonata in G. It is delightful to listen to, but also fascinating to study closely ..Since I am no musician -alas! -,I used the capella score available at
http://www.tobis-notenarchiv.de/bach/09-Orgelwerke/01-Triosonaten/index.ht

It seems to be basically ritornello in form . The opening theme is repeated modified in bar 5, appears again at bar 53, returns at bar 73, again modified at 104, then back in the tonic and and various from 124ff; finally the last 20 bars repeat the opening 20 bars.But there are other themes that also recur throughout -I noticed particularly at bar 37ff the right-hand plays semiquavers and the left quavers, and then they change roles when the two themes recur at 84.

There is as so often in Bach much, much more happening in the music, but when I listened closely with these details in mind I could not really discern any way in which the arrangements failed to do justice to the music or in which the organ was clearly superior.At least in this movement the pedal does not seem to do much more than supply a supporting bass, which the continuo in the arrangements can also do perfectly well. Perhaps in a direct comparison of Rübsam on the organ and the Purcell Quartet in the themes at bar 37 ff the different voices are clearer and easier to follow on the organ, but in the way the Purcell Quartet shape the movement the passage is effective as a moment of comparative repose in the midst of great activity and complexity.The result of my listening was simply that I enjoyed all the performances more - on closer consideration perhaps London Baroque seem to play with more verve than the Purcell Quartet and Rübsam and the organ he uses are clearer and have more rhythmic vitality than Ton Koopman - but ,as so often again in Bach, closer acquaintance with the music -in any form - leads not to satiety but deeper delight and I shall be happy return to all four performances.

My conclusion is a thought that I have expressed before : as a listener my approach to Bach is 'both....and....' -I take delight in both the performances on organ and in arrangements of various kinds. A performer of necessity has often to take an 'either....or....' approach - you can't play on the harpsichord and piano at the same time, either you play the music on the organ or you arrange it for another instrument. Each choice made about performance practice is also an exclusion of other possibilities. Any performer of Bach's music must have an incomparably greater understanding than I can ever reach but listeners can be receptive to Bach's music in many forms. Every arrangement may shed some light on a particular facet of the music, and for this reason I must confess that I always find arrangements of Bach fascinating. Perhaps this accounts for my preference for arrangments of these works, or rather that and - and a gut prejudice -from which I cannot free myself - that organ music really needs the resonance of a church or large hall to be appreciated and listening to recordings is more artificial for such music than any other .

There must surely be some organists on the list who are convinced in their bones that these sonatas sound better on the organ. I would still be very interested to hear why.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 26, 2008):
Trio Sonatas BWV 525-530 - ProvenUpdate

Thomas Braatz has added two new sections to BWV 525-530 Provenance page:

The Early Printed Editions
Early Versions and Variants of the Individual Movements
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV525-530-Ref.htm

Stephen Benson wrote (September 28, 2008):
Michael Duron wrote:
< A definite must have recording, IMHO, is Kay Johannsen's wonderfully balanced performance on the Metzler Orgelbau AG Dietikon Organ at Stadkirche Stein am Rhein. >
O.K., this HAS to stop! I was somewhat familiar with the trio sonatas but had never found them of particular interest. After reading comments here (including the attached), I thought that (a) I might have missed something, (b) I should give them another try, and (c) I should probably try one of the versions recommended during the present discussions. Perhaps, I thought, the performances in my collection, organ recordings by Hans Fagius and Wolfgang Stockmeier, didn't do justice to the music. Perhaps, I thought, I should check out the Johannsen recording given such a strong recommendation by Michael. I ordered it.

What a revelation! I was immediately struck by the excitement and playfulness bursting from this disc that were totally lacking in the versions I had heard. A desert-island disc on my first try! Then I thought I should listen to Brad's recommendations. He hasn't steered me wrong yet. I ordered the John Butt disc. Another desert-island disc! Butt's lithe, energetic incisiveness opened up entirely new dimensions in the music. But these were both organ recordings. What about the transcriptions? A logical place to start, given his track record, would be Brad's recommendation of the Fisk/Fuller guitar/ harpsichord collaboration. I found a copy. I listened. I smiled. And then I was literally stopped in my tracks! I couldn't get past the opening allegro of the Sonata in C Major, BWV 529. I found myself inexorably swept up in its absolute brilliance. I played it again and again and again! And again and again! I must have played it fifty times in two days. The entire disc is a treasure. Now I'm waiting for the arrival of the Purcell Quartet and the Musica Pacifica versions. I can't afford this. I'm retired and on fixed income in an out-of-control economy, and I can't stop accumulating these phenomenal recordings. I console myself with the argument that, as addictions go, this has to be the most life affirming.

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (September 28, 2008):
Stephen Benson said:
>O.K., this HAS to stop! <
and
> I'm retired and on fixed income in an out-of-control economy, and I can't stop accumulating these phenomenal recordings. <
I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this - once you hear how good the Purcell Quartet sounds you are going to want to rush out and buy the London Baroque.

> I console myself with the argument that, as addictions go, this has to be the most life affirming. <
Yep. Right up there with horses, cats and dogs.

Jane Newble wrote (September 28, 2008):
Trio Sonatas BWV 525-530 - Provenance Update/Thomas Braatz

Thank you Thomas, for these extremely interesting additions. They answer some of my questions, especially about the tempo designation of the first Sonata.

Jane Newble wrote (September 30, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< it fifty times in two days. The entire disc is a treasure. Now I'm waiting for the arrival of the Purcell Quartet and the Musica Pacifica versions. I can't afford this. I'm retired and on fixed income in an out-of-control economy, and I can't stop accumulating these phenomenal recordings. I console myself with the argument that, as addictions go, this has to be the most life affirming. >
Don't worry, bread and water is perfectly adequate to live on......

 

Trio Sonatas BWV 525-530: Details
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
Trio Sonatas - Biggs | Trio Sonatas - Johanssen & Lippincott | Trio Sonatas - London Baroque
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2

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