Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fantasy in C,
Fantasy and Fugue in c,
Sonata in a for Solo Violin,
Partita in d for Solo Violin: Chaconne
Aya Yoshida (org)
ZOHO 201207 (60:57)
This Bach program, performed by organist Aya Yoshida on the magnificent Jehmlich Brothers organ at the Kreuzkirche in Dresden, is not what it
immediately appears to be—at least not the first half of it. Bach’s keyboard works have often found a home on other instruments—his
on harp, for example—while his works for solo violin have been taken up on guitar and even on trumpet.
But here, the first two items on the disc are pieces played on the instrument for which they were intended, organ. Their interest lies in the fact that they are incomplete fragments that have been given speculative completions by leading German Bach scholar and professor Thomas Meyer-Fiebig.
Fantasia pro organo
, BWV 573, is a fragment containing a mere 12 complete bars and the beginning of a 13th. Bach is believed to have begun the piece sometime around 1722 and then, for reasons unknown, abandoned it. Meyer-Fiebig believes the musical material and style suggest that Bach wanted to try his hand at writing his own concerto-type work for solo organ along the lines of the concertos he had transcribed for organ from the works of other composers. Accordingly, Meyer-Fiebig continues the piece in that vein, expanding it to 8:38. If it sounds authentic, it’s because he uses as models the formal and modulation plans of a number of other Bach organ works, including the preludes in C Minor and E Minor, BWV 546 and 548. Meyer-Fiebig’s 1998 effort is such a perfect likeness to Bach’s music you’d have to be a forensic expert to tell it wasn’t the real deal.
There’s considerably more actual Bach in the Fantasy and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 562, than there is in the opening piece on the disc. The fantasy half—all 81 measures of it—is entirely in Bach’s hand, and may have been written sometime between 1708 and 1717, before the composer’s time in Cöthen. It remained a stand-alone fantasy until 35 years later, when Bach thought to couple it with a fugue sometime around 1745. But he only got as far into the fugue as 27 bars.
An interesting feature of this incomplete five-voice fugue is that a stretto passage (a close overlapping of the subject entries) occurs just at the point where Bach trails off in the middle of the 27th measure. From this Meyer-Fiebig has deduced that Bach was on the verge of introducing a second subject to make this into a double fugue. Although Meyer-Fiebig makes no mention of it in his note, his theory gains enormous weight when one considers that this fugue dates from exactly the same period during which Bach was preoccupied with his
Art of Fugue
and his exploration of various fugal techniques. Completing this fugue posed quite a technical challenge for Meyer-Fiebig; finding the key to a second subject and a satisfactory and satisfying solution to the puzzle took him 16 years. His effort paid off, however, in a work that sounds like Bach himself dictated it from on high.
Rather less convincing is Meyer-Fiebig’s adaptation of the A-Minor Sonata for Solo Violin—all four movements of it—as a kind of pseudo-organ concerto for a two-manual-plus pedal instrument. Bach himself transposed the sonata to D Minor and transcribed it for harpsichord. It’s cataloged as BWV 964, and the recording I have it on piano—Angela Hewitt includes it in her two-disc Hyperion set of the French Suites—sounds like a fairly straightforward transcription. Meyer-Fiebig’s version comes close to something I would describe as emancipation, freeing the music from its violin-centered idiom in order to retool it for organ. As a result, there are passages in all four movements that are unrecognizable from their original source. This is the one work on the disc I find unpersuasive.
The great Chaconne from the D-Minor Violin Partita is another matter. It has survived any number of arrangements and transcriptions, including by Brahms for piano left-hand and more famously the piano realization by Busoni. The Chaconne is a life form of its own and a force so indomitable that as a college professor of mine once said, “You could run over it with a steamroller and not flatten it.” Meyer-Fiebig hasn’t steamrolled it, but he has taken advantage of the organ’s full range of pipes and registrations, even unto “employing the sonic weight of the immense, rarely used
32-foot register of the Kreuzkirche’s organ.”
All of these Meyer-Fiebig arrangements would, of course, be mute, if not for organist Aya Yoshida, who gives them voice on this astonishingly vivid and impactful recording. A Japanese native who moved to Germany at the age of 15 to take formal training, first with cathedral organist Helmut Peters at Paderborn, and then at Cologne’s Hochscule für Musik, Yoshida is now based back in Japan, where she is a full-time lecturer at Nagoya’s Women’s University. Her consummate skill at the console of Dresden’s Kreuzkirche Jehmlich organ is to be heard in her imaginative yet always musically intelligent choice of registrations and stops and in her technical mastery of this large and impressive instrument, said to be one of the finest organs built in postwar Germany. With its latest modifications, made between 2005 and 2008, the organ now boasts more than 80 stops on four manuals plus pedal, including that 32-foot
which may liquefy your internal organs if the killer shockwave doesn’t make instant
of your speaker cones first.
This is definitely recommended for Meyer-Fiebig’s Bach completions and to all organ fanciers for Yoshida’s stunning playing and Zoho’s stupefying recording.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Fantasie in C major, BWV 573 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Aya Yoshida (Organ)
Written: circa 1722; Cöthen, Germany
Venue: Kreuzkirche, Dresden, Germany
Length: 8 Minutes 37 Secs.
Fantasie and Fugue in C minor, BWV 562 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Aya Yoshida (Organ)
Written: 1708-1717; ?Weimar, Germany
Venue: Kreuzkirche, Dresden, Germany
Length: 4 Minutes 56 Secs.
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