Notes and Editorial Reviews
Partita No. 6 in E?,
Sonata in a,
Overture in g in the French Manner,
Rebecca Pechefsky (hpd)
QUILL 1011 (73:32)
Johann Sebastian Bach once said of his favorite pupil that “there is only one crawdad in my brook” (and you have to know German to understand the pun:
Es gibt nur ein
Krebs im Bach
). Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780) was one of Bach’s last and most facile students, whose organ playing was said to have been the equivalent of his teacher. He also completely absorbed Bach’s musical compositional style so that in later years, when he was organist first in Dresden then Altenburg, his own music won a reputation for adhering to the strict conventions of Lutheran church works. Unfortunately, he was also very much behind the times, as music had progressed stylistically, and thus he became an anachronism in his own lifetime. Now, three centuries after his birth, he has become completely overshadowed by his teacher. This is perhaps the fate of the students of acknowledged masters who cannot either distinguish themselves musically or strike out in a new direction. We have, of course, heard of Ignaz Pleyel, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Ferdinand Ries, and Siegfried Wagner as composers of note in their own right, but there is always the nagging comparative with Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Richard Wagner lurking in the background.
Like these other pupils of iconic masters, Krebs may not be a household name but is hardly unknown. Both Mottete and Priory have begun a series of his complete organ works with several leading organists and organs being featured, and the pieces for voice and various instruments have been known for several decades. The tercentennial of his birth, however, is hardly going to engender the same sort of performance frenzy that would accompany a similar celebration of his teacher. Coming off a recent recording of the oboe sonatas, harpsichordist Rebecca Pechefsky aims at least to offer up a disc that acknowledges this anniversary. In order to do so, she has chosen three solo works, a sonata and two suites. All three are very much in the old-fashioned vein of Krebs’s style. The Partita, an eight-movement suite, dates from about 1744 or thereabouts, as does the
Overture in the French Manner
. The sonata, however, was written in 1763 and reflects a much later stylistic idiom. Of the two larger works, not much needs to be said. The Overture is a series of dances prefaced by the usual slow-fast opening. Here the music is quite dense, with lots of texture and depth which would have been fitting for an orchestral version. The minuets are almost a page out of his mentor’s playbook, while the Gavotte dances with rhythmic motion. The Passepied has a fast pace, while the Paisan begins in a wonderfully halting fashion that expands out into some nice sequences. The Partita’s opening prelude is characterized by some of the most colorful and dissonant harmonies I’ve encountered in the period, with a great chromatic line that seems to evolve out of them. The fugue that follows has a distinctive motivic flourish that itself serves as the antecedent for a more flowing theme. Here the textures can get extremely dense, although Krebs keeps his material quite formal. Of the remaining movements, the Allemande is gently flowing, while the Polonaise has some nice intricate and discrete ornamentation. The final Gigue begins with a stark unison that soon becomes quite contrapuntal. The sonata, however, has a different flavor altogether. Its first movement is a short fantasia, with some very strange and colorful harmony, some off-kilter modulations, and plenty of motivic non-sequiturs, very much in the vein of C. P. E. Bach. The slightly slower second movement is based on the echo effect of various themes that jump registers, while the finale is based on a rather nice set of contrasting sequences that move freely around the various tonalities.
Pechefsky accomplishes this performance with skill and a real flair for the often tortuous lines in Krebs. She freely jumps registration and uses the various stops for emphasis, such as in the
in the Overture. Her phrasing is both delicate and finely nuanced. In short, this is an excellent disc and one everyone who adores Bach should have, as it demonstrates that the icon’s style was not idiosyncratic, but rather was extended and developed by his favorite crustacean of a student.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title