Johann Christoph Bach: 44 Chorale Preludes

Portrait of a musician [Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703)]. Anonymous, circa 1700. [Source: Berlin, ‘Archiv für Kunst und Geschichte’ (Prussian State Library)]
Johann Christoph Bach (1642–1703) – an older relative of the great Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) – was employed as the organist of the municipal church of St George at Eisenach in the Thuringia region of Germany. The town was then the capital of the Dukes of  Saxe-Eisenach and Johann Christoph was separately employed as a harpsichordist at the ducal court.  NB He is not to be confused with:
– Johann Christoph Bach (1645–93) active in Arnstadt
– Johann Christoph Bach (1671–1721) active in Ohrdruf
– Johann Christoph Bach (1673–1727) active in Gehren
– Johann Christoph Bach (1676–1738) a son of our Johann Christoph Bach

History
The source of Johann Christoph Bach’s Choräle is a manuscript that is widely referred to as ‘Spitta MS.1491’, the scribe unknown. It comprises seventeenth-/eighteenth-century German keyboard works. The manuscript’s last private owner was the Bach scholar Phillip Spitta (1841–94). It is now in the library of the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK); shelf-mark RH 0093. The title-page of the Choräle translates as: Chorales / Which may be used as preludes during services / Composed & distributed by Johann Christoph Bach / Corporation of Eisenach. These pieces first appeared in print in 1929 as “44 Choräle zum Präambulieren” edited by Martin Fischer for  Bärenreiter (Kassel) and that edition, sill in print, remains the only published source.

Style
These chorale preludes are akin to written-down improvisations, using simple contrapuntal forms and close major-minor shifts. They  are not arranged in any particular order. Each broadly has the same musical structure in which the first line of the hymn is played as a solo that is then given a straightforward imitative treatment, often in just three voices, interspersed with short melodic sequences, ending with a coda over a sustained pedal note.

Performance
Although not concert-programme material these charming, straight-forward little pieces are adaptable to a wide range of registrations and they can make a most respectable contribution to the work of the liturgical organist.

Playlist: click on any title to start the playlist

References and further reading
‘A Bach Manuscript Recovered: Berlin, Bibliothek der Hochshule der Kunste, Spitta Ms. 1491’ by David Schulenberg. Bach Notes: the newsletter of the American Bach Society. Fall 1998.
– ‘Constructing Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703)’ by Daniel R. Melamed. Music & Letters, Vol. 80, No. 3 (Aug., 1999), pp. 345-65. 
Johann Christoph Bach. Wikipedia. Accessed 6 April 2023. 

-‘Johann Christoph Bach’s New Organ for Eisenach’s Georgenkirche’ by Lynn Edwards Butler. Bach, Vol. 35, No. 1 (2004), pp. 42-60.
– Portrait of Johann Christoph Bach. Anonymous c.1700. Archiv für Kunst und Geschichte, Berlin. Online resource accessed 6 April 2023.
– Spitta MS 1491. Universität der Künste Berlin: shelfmark RH 0093.

Technical notes.
– Edition: Johann Christoph Bach (ed. Martin Fischer) 44 Choräle zum Präambulieren. Catalog BA00285. (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1929; repr. 2019)
Temperament: Werckmeister III; pitch A=440 
Organ: Viscount Sonus 60 
Microphone: Zoom Q2N-4K 

– Recordings: ©Andrew Pink (2023). All rights reserved. Creative Commons licence: [Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International]

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The eight short preludes & fugues attributed to J. S. Bach (BWV 553–560)

The set of ‘eight short preludes and fugues’ discussed here date to the period 1730–50 (Williams) but for stylistic reasons are no longer judged to be the work of J.S. Bach himself (Durr, Lohmann, William). However, they still retain their place in the Bach Werke Verzeichnis (BWV), the official J.S. Bach catalogue, as numbers 553–560. 

Sources

The first page of BWV 553. [Source: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin ‘D-B Mus.ms. Bach P 281’]
The earliest surviving source of ‘the eight’ is in one of five separately copied manuscripts that have been bound together into a single volume containing 12 keyboard works: ‘the eight’ plus copies of  BWV 913.2; 718; 916; 735.1.

It has been suggested that the scribe of ‘the eight’ was Bach’s great-nephew J.C.G.  Bach  (1747–1814) and that subsequently the whole volume was in the possession of J.S. Bach’s last pupil J.C. Kittel (1732–1809) (Lohmann, Williams). The manuscript volume was latterly owned by Georg Poelchau (1773–1836) who was an avid collector of Bach materials. Since 1841 the manuscript has been in the collection of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin as ‘D-B Mus.ms. Bach P 281’.

The same paper used for ‘the eight’  is also found in three sections of another Bach manuscript, ‘D-B Mus.ms. Bach P 803’, one of whose scribes has been identified as J.L. Krebs (1713–80) (Williams), a pupil of Bach.

A now-lost manuscript of ‘the eight’ – scribe unknown –  was once owned by Bach biographer J.N. Forkel (1749–1818) and then by a promoter of Bach’s work  F.C. Griepenkerl (1782–1849). It was used to produce the 1852 C.F. Peters (Leipzig) edition of ‘the eight’ and is likely to have been a copy of Poelchau’s manuscript. (Durr)

Style

Given that nowadays ‘the  eight’ is merely “attributed” to Bach commentators have tried to identify alternative composers but with no clear consensus emerging beyond stylistic traits, e.g. Italian concerto (no.1); durezze (no.3); neo-galant (no. 4); toccata (no.5); southern fugal styles (nos. 1, 4, & 5). (Durr, Lohmann, Williams).

My own hypothesis (2022) is that ‘the eight’ is likely to be Bach-student work born out of the partimento method of teaching composition at the keyboard, as used by Bach. Broadly speaking, this method employs an independent given bass line containing sufficient elements for the student to create a complete composition. (Milka). In ‘the eight’ can be found some (not all) motifs that are strongly familiar with some of those in a c.1734 partimento collection “L’A.B.C. Musical” by Gottfried Kirchhoff (1685–1746), a composer-organist known personally to Bach (Milka); see two examples below. My hypothesis implies that there will be other (as-yet unidentified) generative sources for ‘the eight’.

In addition it is worth noting that there is evidence of a clear intention behind the organisation of ‘the eight’, i.e. that it is not an ‘ad hoc’ assembly. This is because the sequence of pieces in ‘the eight’ is in keeping with other early eighteenth-century keyboard collections with content ordered by ascending key progression and the pairing of major and minors keys, although in ‘the eight’ only one key is paired. Perhaps ‘the eight’ is an incomplete Bach-student project?

NB The sequence of each piece’s tonic note forms the Mixolydian mode.

Performance

The attraction of this collection for me is not only that individual movements are useful in liturgical settings but also that the set, when played complete, makes a pleasing and varied baroque-period  concert item.

In preparing these recordings of ‘the eight’ I have taken account of Baroque-period theory concerning the  emotional character (affekt) of different musical keys, here pursuing a 1713 affekt-theory of the Hamburg composer and influential theorist Johann Mattheson (1681–1764). The instrument I am using is tuned according to the Baroque Werckmeister III system.

Listen

Mattheson’s thoughts on A-minor: … somewhat plaintive, modest  and relaxed … relaxing but not disagreeably so, These are qualities not immediately apparent in the free Stylus phantasticus manner of the prelude nor in the confident duple pulse of the fugue. While this music is neither ‘relaxed’ nor particularly ‘relaxing’ it has a plaintive quality, heightened by the sharp intonation of A minor in the baroque Werckmeister III temperament (tuning) of the instrument used here.

Mattheson’s thoughts on Bb-major: … very diverting and showy … it can pass as both magnificent and graceful … it elevates the soul to greater things. 

References

  • Technical notes.
    – Edition: Johann Sebastian Bach Acht kleine Präludien und Fugen. Series: Barenreitr Urtext.  (Kassel ; London : Bärenreiter 1990)
    – Temperament: Werckmeister III; pitch A=440

    – Organ: Viscount Sonus 60
    – Microphone: Zoom Q2N-4K
    – Recordings: ©Andrew Pink (2022–23). All rights reserved.

    Creative Commons licence: [Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International]

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Exordia ad missam

The following exordia ad missam (tr. preludes to the mass) are short and mostly meditative pieces that I recorded during the UK’s various Covid-related restrictions of 2020–22 for use as part of live-streamed church services.  For some of my other lockdown recordings go to: J. S. Bach’s ‘Orgelbüchlein’ : my lockdown recordings.

Recordings©Andrew Pink. 
Material on this page is published under the Creative Commons licence
(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) : Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International. All rights reserved.

Emma Louise Ashford (1850–1930) 

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Melody in B-flat: allegretto ma non troppo’ (The Organist Vol. 2/iv 1898)

Nadia Boulanger

Nadia Boulanger (1887–1979)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Inprovisation (Trois Improvisations. 1911–12)

Kate Boundy (1863–1913)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Even Song‘ (The Village Organist. Vol. 11. 1898)

 Luigi Bottazzo (1845–1924)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Invocazione alla Regina della Pace‘. Raccolta di Sette Pezzi. Op.289. 1917)

Maude Campbell-Jansen (1884-1958) in 1910

Maude Campbell-Jansen (1888-1954)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) Meditation (1928). 

Hedwige Chrétien (1859–1944)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Musette‘ from Harmonies Religieuses: à l’usage du service divin. (Series ‘Echos des organistes contemporains’ Vol 3 . 1922)

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Melody’ (Three Short Pieces. 1898). 

Elisa Delaye-Fuchs (1872–?)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Pièce en La bémol majeur‘ Op. 25 (Maîtres contemporains de l’orgue. Vol. 5. 1914. 93–94)

Jeanne Demessieux (1921–68)

Andrew Pink performs (2020) ‘Rorate caeli‘ (Twelve Choral-Preludes on Gregorian Themes. Op. 8. 1947) . 

Théodore Dubois (1837–1924)

Andrew PInk performs (2021) ‘Adoration‘ (42 Pièces pour Orgue ou Harmonium. c.1915. Op. Posth. 1925)

Marcel Dupré  (1886–1971)

Andrew Pink performs (2020) ‘Alma redemptoris mater‘ (Eight Short Preludes on Gregorian Themes. Op 45. 1958).

Robert Evans (c.1949–.)

Andrew Pink plays Divertimento for a Keyoboard: Allegro Energico (2014)

William Faulkes (1863–1933)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Idylle in D-flat major’ (William Faulkes: Compositions for the Organ. 1902)

Eugénie-Emilie Juliette Folville (1879–1946)Eugénie-Emilie Juliette Folville (1870–1946)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Verset sur le thème du “Tantum”, 6e ton’ (Maîtres contemporains del’orgue, Vol.3. 1912)

César Franck (1822–90)César Franck (1822–90)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Prélude pour l’Ave Maris Stella: andantino quasi allegretto’, 1858–63. (No. 28 in Pièces posthumes, ed. Georges Franck, 1905. )

Harvey Grace (1874–1944)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Cradle Song’ (Ten Compositions for the Organ. 1922) 

Walter Battison Haynes (1859–1900)Walter Battison Haynes (1859–1900)

Andrew Pink performs ‘Meditation in G: Introductory Voluntary‘ in The Village Organist (Vol. 1, Book 4,  1897)

Paul HIndemith (1895–1963)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Ruhig bewegt’ (Sonate 2, 1937)

Peter Hurford (1930–2019)

Andrew PInk performs (2022) ‘Wem in Leidenstagen(Five Short Chorale Preludes, 1958)

Joseph Jongen (1873–1953)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) Petit Prélude (1937)

Jean Langlais (1907–91)

Andrew Pink performs (2020) ‘Interlude’ (Three Characteristic Pieces, 1957).

 

John Lee (1908–90)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Ecce panis angelorum’ Ten Organ Preludes for Liturgical Services. No 9. (1939)

Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wely (1817–69)Louis J. A. Lefébure-Wely  (1817–69)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Andante: choeur de voix humaines‘ (Meditaciones religiosas op. 122/vii. 1858).

Kate Loder (1825–1904) Kate Loder (1825–1904)

Andrew Pink performs (2020) ‘Voluntary in B-flat‘ (Six Easy Voluntaries. Second set. 1891). ” … for the most part fresh and genial in character […] somewhat suggestive of Spohr in the numerous chromatic progressions.” (Musical Times. Vol. 32, No. 579 (May  1, 1891), p. 297). 

Robert–Charles Martin (1877–1949)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) Élévation (Parnasse des Organistes … First series, vol.1. 1911)

Olivier Messiaen (1908–92)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) Le Banquet Céleste (1928)

Andrew Moore (b.1954)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) Hymn-prelude ‘Bunessan’ (1996)

Ann Mounsey (1811–91)Ann Mounsey-Bartholomew (1811–1891)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Andante’ (The Village Organist. First Series, vol 2. 1872)

henri mulet in 1911Henri Mulet (1878–1967)

Andrew Pink performs (2020) ‘Noel’ (Esquisses Byzantines, 1920).

Max Oesten (1843–1917).

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Christmas(Festival Times. Op 205/i, 1899).

Flor PeetersFlor Peeters (1903–86)

Andrew Pink performs (2020) ‘Fantasie Inviolata‘ (Four Improvisations on Gregorian Melodies. Op.6/iv, 1946).

Incipit inviolata

Jean-Marie Plum OSM (1898–1944)

Andrew Pink performs ‘Bénédiction nuptiale(Messe de mariage. Op.56/ii. Pub. posth, Paris. 1955)

Marie Prestat (1862–1933)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Offrande à la Vierge: Alma redemptoris mater (Maîtres contemporains de l’orgue. Vol.4..  Paris: 1914)

florence price Florence Price (1887–1953)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) Adoration (1951)

Noel RawsthorneNoel Rawsthorne (1929–2019)

Andrew Pink performs:(2020) ‘Interlude in C‘ (Adagio Collection, 1999)

Alec Rowley (1892-1958) Alec Rowley (1892–1958).

Andrew PInk performs (2021) ‘Picardy‘ (A Book of Hymn Tune Voluntaries [by various]. 1950)

Blanche Rozan (fl.1900–12)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Petite Prière: assez lentement’ (Maîtres contemporains de l’orgueVol. 2.. Paris: 1912)

Léonce de Saint-Martin (1886–

1954)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Interlude de Grand Orgue pour l’Élévation: infiniment calme‘ (Mass in E-minor, Op.13. 1932)

 Hermann Schroeder (1904–84).

Andrew PInk performs (2021) ‘Allegretto‘ (Kleine Präludien und IntermezziOp. 9. 1932)

Franz SchubertFranz Schubert (1797–1828)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Ave Maria’ (Ellens Gesang III, D. 839/vi. 1825), arr. Andrew Pink (2022)

Quentin Thomas (b. 1972)

Andrew Pink performs (2021) ‘Prelude on St Columba’ (1996)

Ralph Vaughan Williams c.1921Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Eventide‘ (from Two Hymn Tune Preludes for small orchestra (1936), arranged for organ (1938) by Herbert Sumsion (1899–1995)

 René Vierne (1878–1918)

Andrew Pink performs (2022) ‘Élévation’ (Archives de l’Organiste, vol 4. 1910)

Techincal notes
– Temperament: Equal; pitch A=440
– Organ: Viscount Sonus 60
– Microphone: Zoom Q2N-4K
– Recordings: ©Andrew Pink. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons licence: [Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International]

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