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Bach: 6 Sonaten Fur Orgel In Bearbeitungen Fur 2 Klaviere Zu 4 Handen

Bach / Orloff / Spinnler
Release Date: 01/11/2011 
Label:  Fuga Libera   Catalog #: 572   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Claudine OrloffBurkhard Spinnler
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH 6 Organ Sonatas, BWV 525–530. Cantata No. 208: Sheep May Safely Graze Claudine Orloff, Burkard Spinnler (pn) FUGA LIBERA 572 (77:25)


It took one composer—Bach—to write the six organ sonatas on this disc; one keyboardist—his son Wilhelm Friedemann, for whom they were written—to play them; and four men to arrange them for two pianos. Somewhere in here there’s a “how many musicians does it take to screw in a light Read more bulb” joke waiting to be told. But this was no joint venture like the one envisioned by Diabelli when he enlisted the most famous composers of the realm to contribute a variation each on a waltz tune he’d provided them. No, these arrangements were made many years apart by four men who didn’t even know each other. Two of them—Isidor Philipp (1863–1958) and Victor Babin (1908–72) of Vronsky and Babin fame—were pianists. Budapest-born Philipp spent most of his life in Paris where he studied with, among others, Saint-Saëns. Moscow-born Babin studied piano with Schnabel in Berlin, emigrated to the U.S., and ended up in Cleveland where he became director of the Cleveland Institute of Music. One of the four arrangers, Ferdinand Thieriot (1838–1919), was not a pianist but a cellist and another one of the composers who rolled off of Josef Rheinberger’s well-oiled assembly line. It didn’t take long, though, before he fell in with the Brahms circle. Then there was Hermann Keller (1885–1967), primarily an organist and musicologist, who studied with Max Reger.


It would be a mistake to assume that each of these contributors arranged only one or two of these sonatas. Babin, in fact, made two-piano transcriptions of all six of them. Rather, what we have here is a “choose one from column A and two from column B” buffet in which duo pianists Claudine Orloff and Burkard Spinnler have created their own anthology from unpublished examples by otherwise well-known 19th- and 20th-century transcribers.


If one is given to question why these sonatas should be transcribed for two pianos instead of one, the answer is fairly straightforward: Unless significant revisions to Bach’s distribution of voices are to be made, the music requires more than 10 fingers and cannot be played on a single keyboard. In reality, these are trio sonatas—ordinarily works for two solo melody instruments with basso continuo—but in this case conceived for an organ with two manuals and pedal board. Bach, however, does not consign the pedal voice to a strict continuo role; instead, he makes it a full partner in the invertible counterpoint and exchanging of roles with the upper voices. This makes the feet into a third hand, if you will, resulting in a pedal part that is quite active and not easy to play. Bach wrote the sonatas out in three independent parts, as they were intended to be training exercises for his eldest son, who, at the time, was learning to expand and adapt his keyboard technique from harpsichord to organ. It’s testament to Bach’s genius that what we hear today as great music are pieces that were meant as exercises in composition and instruction in organ-playing technique.


Orloff and Spinnler play the sonatas with a good deal of infectious spirit and verve, spicing things up along the way with some delightful embellishments. In some ways, Bach’s game of follow the bouncing ball as the lines intertwine and the thematic material pops up in one voice and then another is easier to track in these piano arrangements than it is on organ. The reason, I think, has to do with the fact that the piano’s percussive voice “speaks” faster and with more clearly articulated attacks between notes than does the voice of the wind-driven organ. Thus, one hears the interplay of voices here with great clarity. The tradeoff, of course, is that the range and mix of registrations that can be achieved on organ by employing the instrument’s stops in various combinations are not available to the pianist.


Still, these performances really sizzle. Until hearing Orloff and Spinnler take the concluding Vivace of the D-Minor Sonata at such a whizzing clip, it never occurred to me that this movement might well have been a model for Mendelssohn’s Saltarello movement from his “Italian” Symphony. I have the sonatas played on organ by Simon Preston, who takes more than a minute longer (4:04) in this movement compared to Orloff and Spinnler (3:02). That’s an astounding difference in so short a piece. But even if Preston played it as fast—which I’m sure he could—on organ, much of it would be a blur. On piano, we hear every note crisp and clear, and it really is predictive of Mendelssohn. These performances are a real treat.


No one would have cause to complain about short playing time if the disc had included just the six sonatas. The arrangement for two pianos by Mary Howe of the aria “Schafe können sicher weide” (Sheep May Safely Graze) from Bach’s Cantata No. 208, Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd , affectionately known as the “Hunt” Cantata, adds less than five minutes to the CD, and isn’t informed by the same logic that legitimizes the transcriptions of the organ sonatas. Howe (1882–1964) was an American composer born in Richmond, Virginia. An amusing anecdote reports that her Chain Gang Song for orchestra and chorus was “especially praised for its lack of femininity.” While the case for Bach’s purely instrumental organ sonatas in these two-piano versions is a strong one, particularly given Orloff’s and Spinnler’s outstanding performances, arranging an aria for soprano and orchestra for two pianos, to my mind, doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it doesn’t really work. It sounds like the distant tinkling one hears in a mall.


Enjoy the sonatas, which are terrific, and leave the sheep to graze in the pasture. Strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Trio Sonata for Organ no 1 in E flat major, BWV 525 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Claudine Orloff (Piano), Burkhard Spinnler (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Venue:  Luxembourg Conservatoire, Luxembourg 
Length: 14 Minutes 0 Secs. 
2.
Trio Sonata for Organ no 3 in D minor, BWV 527 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Burkhard Spinnler (Piano), Claudine Orloff (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Venue:  Luxembourg Conservatoire, Luxembourg 
Length: 12 Minutes 32 Secs. 
3.
Trio Sonata for Organ no 5 in C major, BWV 529 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Burkhard Spinnler (Piano), Claudine Orloff (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Venue:  Luxembourg Conservatoire, Luxembourg 
Length: 12 Minutes 19 Secs. 
4.
Trio Sonata for Organ no 2 in C minor, BWV 526 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Burkhard Spinnler (Piano), Claudine Orloff (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Venue:  Luxembourg Conservatoire, Luxembourg 
Length: 9 Minutes 42 Secs. 
5.
Trio Sonata for Organ no 4 in E minor, BWV 528 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Burkhard Spinnler (Piano), Claudine Orloff (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Venue:  Luxembourg Conservatoire, Luxembourg 
Length: 8 Minutes 55 Secs. 
6.
Trio Sonata for Organ no 6 in G major, BWV 530 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Burkhard Spinnler (Piano), Claudine Orloff (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Venue:  Luxembourg Conservatoire, Luxembourg 
Length: 14 Minutes 25 Secs. 
7.
Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!, BWV 208 "Hunt Cantata": Schafe können sicher weiden by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Claudine Orloff (Piano), Burkhard Spinnler (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1713; Cöthen, Germany 
Venue:  Luxembourg Conservatoire, Luxembourg 
Length: 4 Minutes 41 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Trio Sonata No. 1 in E flat major, BWV 525 (arr. for 2 Pianos): I. Allegretto
Trio Sonata No. 1 in E flat major, BWV 525 (arr. for 2 Pianos): II. Adagio
Trio Sonata No. 1 in E flat major, BWV 525 (arr. for 2 Pianos): III. Allegro
Trio Sonata No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527 (arr. for 2 pianos): I. Andante
Trio Sonata No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527 (arr. for 2 pianos): II. Adagio e dolce
Trio Sonata No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527 (arr. for 2 pianos): III. Vivace
Trio Sonata No. 5 in C major, BWV 529 (arr. for 2 pianos): I. Allegro
Trio Sonata No. 5 in C major, BWV 529 (arr. for 2 pianos): II. Largo
Trio Sonata No. 5 in C major, BWV 529 (arr. for 2 pianos): III. Allegro
Trio Sonata No. 2 in C minor, BWV 526 (arr. for 2 pianos): I. Vivace
Trio Sonata No. 2 in C minor, BWV 526 (arr. for 2 pianos): II. Largo
Trio Sonata No. 2 in C minor, BWV 526 (arr. for 2 pianos): III. Allegro
Trio Sonata No. 4 in E minor, BWV 528 (arr. for 2 pianos): I. Adagio - Vivace
Trio Sonata No. 4 in E minor, BWV 528 (arr. for 2 pianos): II. Andante
Trio Sonata No. 4 in E minor, BWV 528 (arr. for 2 pianos): III. Un poco allegro
Trio Sonata No. 6 in G major, BWV 530 (arr. for 2 pianos): I. Vivace
Trio Sonata No. 6 in G major, BWV 530 (arr. for 2 pianos): II. Lento
Trio Sonata No. 6 in G major, BWV 530 (arr. for 2 pianos): III. Allegro
Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!, BWV 208, "Hunt Cantata (arr. for 2 pianos): Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!, BWV 208, "Hunt Cantata": Schafe konnen sicher weiden (arr. for 2 pianos)

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