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Bach: Art Of The Fugue, Wo Gott Der Herr Nicht / Gerhard Weinberger

Release Date: 08/26/2008 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777403-2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gerhard Weinberger
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 38 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält. The Art of Fugue Gerhard Weinberger (org) cpo 777 403 (2 CDs: 97:58)

Bach’s Art of Fugue is a colossal musical edifice, and also a colossal enigma. It exists in two versions—the first from the early 1740s (extant in an autograph score). Bach continued to expand and refine it up to the time of his death, after which C. P. E. Bach added its final touches, ultimately publishing the entire work in Leipzig in Read more 1751. That second version is the one found here. Revisiting this piece after years away from it, I was struck by how much its primary theme resembles the melody supposedly given to Bach by Frederick the second in 1747 that led to The Musical Offering . Bach’s work on Art of Fugue predates that meeting, so, perhaps Bach himself invented that tellingly chromatic theme that led not only to Art of Fugue , but to The Musical Offering as well. Who really knows? That is just another enigma in an enigmatic universe. The primary enigma, however, has to do with the actual purpose of the work. Some have suggested that it was nothing more than a theoretical exercise in contrapuntal construction intended for pedagogical purposes. Indeed, Bach doesn’t even provide instrumentation, buttressing the idea that it was merely music for the eye and musical intellect rather than the ear. As a result, it has been realized by string ensembles (my first exposure to it was on an early Nonesuch LP featuring a performance of its entirety by the Chamber Orchestra of the Saare conducted by the indefatigably enterprising Karl Ristenpart), brass ensembles, and on harpsichords, and pianos. I have a fine CD of it arranged for full chamber orchestra with winds alternating with solo harpsichord and other instrumental combinations on an obscure French label, K617, reviewed for Fanfare by me back in the late 1980s. To continue with that enigma part, this is, by any measure, music of otherworldly grandeur. I suspect that it was a tutorial, but one for Bach himself, wherein he was pushing his contrapuntal craft to its limits and beyond.

Recordings of the whole score are still rarities. Most of the catalog is still choked with selections from it meant to highlight the prowess of the performers rather than to provide us with the piece in its majestic entirety. Here it is realized on a fine German Baroque organ—the Johannes Creutzburg Organ of Propsteikirche St. Cyriaus Duderstadt—by Gerhard Weinberger (full organ specs are provided). The organ was built between 1733 and 1735, making it the kind of instrument that Bach himself played, and it is captured by cpo in sound that is both mellow and well defined. Weinberger faithfully realizes not only the contrapuntal austerity of the piece, but its moments of, for lack of a better phrase, disarming whimsy. Indeed, in his hands this music often becomes, paradoxically, downright sensual.

If you don’t know this work in its entirety, here is a fine opportunity. To sweeten the pot, Weinberger throws in the world premiere recording of Bach’s chorale fantasia Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält , BWV 1128.

FANFARE: William Zagorski
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Works on This Recording

Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält, BWV 1128 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gerhard Weinberger (Organ)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1710; Weimar, Germany 
The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gerhard Weinberger (Organ)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1745-1750; Leipzig, Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Now Organ September 21, 2012 By L. Wilborn (Richwood, TX) See All My Reviews "I like Bach's Art of the Fugue, and have it in various versions including: chamber orchestra, string quartet, and harpsichord. Since lately I've been into organ transcriptions, I added this organ version as well. I'm pleased. Recommended." Report Abuse
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