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Martin Lücker (Organ)

“Late Organ Works from the Leipzig Period”

R-15

Edition Bachakademie Vol. 100: Organ Works - Late Works from the Leipzig Period

Prelude & Fugue in B minor, BWV 544 [7:23, 8:01]
Prelude & Fugue in E minor ("Wedge"), BWV 548 [8:26, 8:40]
Fantasia & Fugue in C minor, BWV 562 [6:35, 2:18]
Musical Offering BWV 1079: Ricercare à 6 [14:39]
Chorale Prelude Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit (I), BWV 668 [6:37]
Canonic variations on the Christmas hymn Vom himmel hoch, da komm ich her (II), BWV 769a [1:59, 1:45, 3:48, 3:00, 5:27]

Martin Lücker (Organ) [Rieger Organ]

Hänssler

Sep 18-19, 1998

CD / TT: 79:11

Recorded at Katharinenkirche, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.co.uk

Donald Satz wrote (December 17, 2001):
Summary: Overbearing and Turgid - Not Recommended

I had great expectations from this Martin Lücker disc. Lucker is a very strong and muscular Bach performing artist who gave us a fantastic Hänssler/Bach disc titled "Scales from Weimar". Unfortunately, the "Late Works from Leipzig" recording is burdened with problems, and the emphasis is on 'burden'. By the time I was finished listening to the recording, I felt as if a ton of bricks had caved in on me and no one was available to relieve the pressure.

Lucker certainly maintains his strong and muscular approach, but this time it is heavy, turgid, somber, and slow. The Preludes & Fugues on the program, works he is best suited for, are only partially successful at best. Lucker seems to wring all the life out of these works with his slow pacing and extremely heavy and bass-laden registrations. In BWV 668, the last organ work composed by Bach on his deathbed, Lucker is so slow and somber; I much prefer this piece to represent Bach's glorious 'calling-card' into Heaven. With Lucker, it sounds like the dreaded last rites. Although Lucker does well with the Canonic Variations, there's nothing special in the interpretation; further, the work does not play into Lucker's strengths as a Bach performer.

The six-part Ricercar from the Musical Offering is not often recorded on the organ likely because of the potential problems which can result from thick and smooth organ textures. Those problems are center-stage in readings such as from the quick paced Christopher Herrick on Hyperion. He's too much into legato with insufficient lift to the performance; the details which are so important in this piece are murky with Herrick. Although on piano, Nikolayeva invests the music with great detail so the listener can savor every musical strand.

Martin Lücker provides all the muscle, intensity, and angularity lacking in Herrick's reading. Lucker is also quite slow with every phrase being examined and conveyed to the listener in as strong a manner as I've ever heard. As good as Lucker may be, I still prefer this ricercar played on piano or harpsichord; the work is so heavy on its own without the added weight of the organ. But if you want the strongest performance on organ, Lucker delivers the goods.

Don's Conclusions: Two major reservations stop me from giving the Lucker recording a positive recommendation. First, it is questionable whether the Ricercar is a worthy item to program on organ, and Lucker extends it to the eighteen minute range. Second, the most powerful works on the disc are performed in an overbearing manner. I didn't anticipate these miscalculations from Lucker. He evidently was not in top interpretive form while planning and recording the program, and I advise readers to go with his "Scales from Weimar" disc. As for me, I'll just wait for his next disc on the horizon. I certainly have not given up on Lucker, but this present disc is not highly rewarding.

 

Feedback to the Review

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 18, 2001):
Donald Satz wrote:
< Hänssler 92.100
Martin Lücker, Organ
(...) it is questionable whether the Ricercar is a worthy item to program on organ, and Lucker extends it to the eighteen minute range. >
Good heavens, eighteen minutes?!?!? For the six-voiced Ricercar, a piece that normally takes about nine minutes? "Overbearing and Turgid" indeed...hardly the same piece anymore!

Incidentally, Heinz Lohmann includes both Ricercari in his edition of the Bach organ works (Breitkopf 6584 for this volume), but I agree with you that it's questionable to play them on organ. It's useful to practice them on organ, just as it's useful to practice all Bach's keyboard music on as many instruments as possible to learn the music from all angles, but on organ it's hard to get any contrapuntal clarity in a piece that is already this dense.

< Lucker seems to wring all the life out of these works with his slow pacing and extremely heavy and bass-laden registrations. In BWV 668, the last organ work composed by Bach on his deathbed, Lucker is so slow and somber; I much prefer this piece to represent Bach's glorious 'calling-card' into Heaven. With Lucker, it sounds like the dreaded last rites. >
Do the program notes in Lucker's CD reproduce that same old hagiographical cloth about this being Bach's deathbed piece? That legend typically says that blind Bach in his last few days dictated this fresh piece to his friend Altnikol.

Christoph Wolff wrote an essay called "The Deathbed Chorale: Exposing a Myth" where he describes all the sources and circumstances for BWV 668/668a. If Bach worked on this sometime during the last five years of his life, it was only as a revision and elaboration of earlier work. BWV 641 ("Wenn wir...", Orgelbüchlein, before 1717) is almost identical in its three lower parts, and to convert it into "Vor deinen Thron" Bach basically added interludes between the phrases and simplified the melodic ornamentation. BWV 667 and 668 (standing together as the last two in the eighteen "Leipzig chorales") are both revisions of Orgelbüchlein compositions from about 30 years earlier.

Wolff also shows that if Altnikol were involved in any dictation of BWV 668, it probably would have been before 1747, i.e. several years before Bach's death.

Wolff concludes that Bach might well have kept fussing with this piece as one of the last things he worked on...but we don't know one way or the other. The sources suggest that this piece was fully formed at least several years before his death, and if he did any tinkering it was only with small details.

About the growth of the legend, the romanticized conflation of several different streams of stories, Wolff says:

"As we trace the evolution from the initial almost insignificant notice in the original print of the Art of Fugue to the inflated narration of Rust--a development unsupported by any added documentation--we are bound to conclude that we are faced with the growth of a legend. All the telltale characteristics are here: a small germ, a mention of fact given without comment, grows into a concretely perceived report with intensely religious overtones. Nor has the myth of Bach's death chamber, touched by the breath of eternity, reached its final expression in the sources quoted. But there is no need to pursue the trail from Albert Schweitzer's interpretations to the expresof popular historiography whose repercussions have remained alive. The course was set in the late nineteenth century. With the authoritative writings of Spitta and Rust, the concept of the 'Fifth Evangelist' was preordained."

That essay is on p282-294 in Bach: Essays on his Life and Music by Wolff. Harvard University Press, 1991.

Kurt Jensen wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Donald Satz] The Ricercar performed by Lucker on the Hanssler disc is listed at 14'39.

Donald Satz wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Kurt Jensen] Yes, Kurt is correct. I must have been looking at the timing for the previous work, BWV 548, which is about 18 minutes long. The reason I didn't flinch was because I knew Lucker's Ricercar was very slow.

I assume that Kurt has the Lucker disc. Kurt, what's your opinion of the performances?

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 18, 2001):
Brad Lehmann quotes Wolff:
< About the growth of the legend, the romanticized conflation of several different streams of stories, Wolff says:

"As we trace the evolution from the initial almost insignificant notice in the original print of the Art of Fugue to the inflated narration of Rust--a development unsupported by any added documentation--we are bound to conclude that we are faced with the growth of a legend. All the telltale characteristics are here: a small germ, a mention of fact given without comment, grows into a concretely perceived report with intensely religious overtones. Nor has the myth of Bach's death chamber, touched by the breath of eternity, reached its final expression in the sources quoted. But there is no need to pursue the trail from Albert Schweitzer's interpretations to the expressions of popular historiography whose repercussions have remained alive. The course was set in the late nineteenth century. With the authoritative writings of Spitta and Rust, the concept of the 'Fifth Evangelist' was preordained."

That essay is on p282-294 in Bach: Essays on his Life and Music by Wolff. Harvard University Press, 1991. >
BTW, Christoph Wolff's first attack on this myth dates back to 1974, in Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Music in Honor of Arthur Mendel, ed. Robert Marshall, Kassel in the article entitled: "Johann Sebastian Bachs 'Sterbechoral': Kritische Fragen zu einem Mythos" ["J S Bach's 'Death Chorale': Critical Questions concerning a Myth."]

Let's point the finger specifically at the culprit who needs to be blamed for all of this:

The NBA VIII/2 KB p. 59 printed in 1996 has identified the handwriting that wrote, "NB Ueber dieser Fuge, wo der Nahme/B A C H im Contrasubject/angebracht worden, ist | der Verfaßer gestorben" ["Note: the composer died while trying to complete this fugue which contains the name B A C H as a countersubject"] as belonging to no one other than Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

It is no small wonder that the great scholars were swayed by this statement, if they, too, knew that the handwriting was his or someone else they deemed to be trustworthy. Add to this as well, that it was a marvelous anecdote that had the potential to grow enormously because people really wanted to believe this story.

Personally, my respect and regard for authenticity regarding anything that CPE Bach has stated or written about his famous father has been seriously diminished to the point that if anyone states, "This is how it is supposed to be played because CPE Bach heard his father do it in such a manner [embellishments, articulation, etc.]" I will have serious grounds upon which to disagree.

Roy Johanse wrote (December 18, 2001):
Thomas Braatz writes:
< Let's point the finger specifically at the culprit who needs to be blamed for all of this:

The NBA VIII/2 KB p. 59 printed in 1996 has identified the handwriting that wrote, "NB Ueber dieser Fuge, wo der Nahme/B A C H im Contrasubject/angebracht worden, ist | der Verfaßer gestorben" ["Note: the composer died while trying to complete this fugue which contains the name B A C H as a countersubject"] as belonging to no one other than
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

It is no small wonder that the great scholars were swayed by this statement, if they, too, knew that the handwriting was his or someone else they deemed to be
trustworthy. Add to this as well, that it was a marvelous anecdote that had the potential to grow enormously because people really wanted to believe this story. >
CPE's note was made in the manuscript of KdF, on the same page as the last, unfinished fugue, and is not in any way connected to the chorale "Vor deinen Thron". The chorale happened to be published with KdF, but is otherwise not related to it, so I'm not sure it's fair to doubt CPE's veracity based on his note.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 19, 2001):
[To Roy Johanse] Roy, I am sorry to have shifted the focus away from the chorale. I was more interested in pointing out the myth-making taking place at the time of Bach's death and immediately thereafter. CPE's veracity is doubted by the editors of the NBA as the whole idea of a "Grundplan or Entwurf," an overall plan for the KdF, is still very much in question, or as the NBA editors put it: Bach may have said something to this effect going way back to the time when he first conceived the idea for the KdF, or this idea could "gar nur nachträglich ihm unterstellte Absichten beziehen" ["only be connected to intentions imputed or insinuated to have come from Bach directly after he had already died."]

In any case, "NB Ueber dieser Fuge, wo der Nahme/B A C H im Contrasubject/angebracht worden, ist | der Verfaßer gestorben" ["Note: the composer died while trying to complete this fugue which contains the name B A C H as a countersubject"] in CPE's handwriting gives very much the impression that Bach was working feverishly to complete this fugue at the moment when he died. This is the same type of myth-making that Wolff was attempting to expose regarding the 'Death Chorale.'

 

Complete Bach's Organ Works on Hänssler: Recordings
Short Biographies:
Bine Katrine Bryndorf | Pieter van Dijk | Kay Johannsen | Martin Lücker | Andrea Marcon | Wolfgang Zerer
Reviews:
Early Bach Organ Works from Andrea Marcon (A. Marcon) | “Scales from Weimar” (M. Lücker) | Five Recordings of Bach’s Orgelbüchlein (W. Zerer) | Bach Organ Transcriptions from Pieter van Dijk (P.v. Dijk) | Three Recent Recordings of Bach's Leipzig Chorales: Part 1 | Part 2 (B.K. Bryndorf) | “Late Organ Works from the Leipzig Period” (M. Lücker) | Bach’s Trio Sonatas for Organ from Johannsen and Lippincott (K. Johannsen) | Bach Great Organ Mass by Kay Johannssen (K. Johannsen)

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Last update: ýOctober 8, 2007 ý08:51:21