Help me identify Bach organ music
November 8, 2007 2:32 AM   Subscribe

Konzert Fur Orgel No 5 - D-Moll .... What?

I acquired some MP3s of Bach organ music and I love them. But all I have to identify them are the ID3 tags, which all state "Konzert Fur Orgel No 5 D-Moll". I suspect the ending of the ID3 info has been accidentally trimmed.

I'd like to listen to more of this music, beyond the four tracks I have, but what is it? What CD would I find it on? How is Bach organ music arranged?

Note that I really hate the dramatic Toccata and Fugue-style Bach organ music. What I have is much more gentle and melodic. Lovely counterpoint and played on a more reedy organ.
posted by deeper red to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
BWV 596?
posted by Gyan at 2:44 AM on November 8, 2007

Gyan appears to have it. Thanks! If you want to listen along at home you can hear a snippet here. I couldn't find a MIDI or full recording.

It's odd that it's based on Vivaldi because I would have sworn the counterpoint is typical of Bach. I guess it's just one of the characteristics of baroque music.

I still don't understand how Bach's organ music is catalogued so if anybody wants to step in and explain, I'd be really grateful.
posted by deeper red at 3:09 AM on November 8, 2007

The BWV catalogue is not really organized very well. You can see the wikipedia article about it.
posted by strangeguitars at 3:50 AM on November 8, 2007

Bach's organ output can be divided into various kinds of works. Broadly speaking:

pairs of toccata/prelude/fantasia and fugue;
various individual fantasias/fugues/etc.;
chorale preludes;
chorale variations;
sonatas; and
arrangements of concertos.

Most of the interesting counterpoint is in the toccatas/preludes/fantasias/fugues, but a lot of those would seem to be of the character that you're not into. There are a few that you might get along with, though, like the Fantasia in B minor, BWV 563, which is a bit less in-your-face about it all.

The chorale preludes are free-form pieces that are based on German hymn tunes of the time, and form a large proportion of Bach's organ works. There are several sets of them, with different characteristics.

For instance, the Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book) has lots of quite short preludes (1-3 minutes), which are less counterpointy, and a bit more melodicky and patterny. If you're looking for more moving melodic pieces, there are some real gems here, like:

O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß, BWV 622; and
Mit Freid' und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 616.

The Schübler Chorales are a short set of six preludes (BWV 645–650) that are a bit more counterpointy, which might work for you.

The problem with the chorale preludes, I suspect, is that any given set on CD will contain quite a few that you probably won't enjoy. But if you can find some way to preview them and pick and choose, then you'll find some good things.

The six chorale variations (also called chorale partitas, BWV 766-771) are long pieces, 10–20 minutes long, each consisting of several variations on a tune. They feature individual melodic lines and are quite reflective in nature, so I think you might enjoy these. Here's O Gott, du frommer Gott, BWV 767, to give you a taster. (Give it a chance to get past the theme and get interesting.)

The six trio sonatas (BWV 525–530) would certainly be up your street. They have similar qualities to the Vivaldi arrangements that you like. The Vivaldi concertos are obviously as several individual string lines, and the organ trio sonatas are written for three separate independent melodic parts: right hand, left hand, and pedal. (They're a bit of a mind-fuck to play.) Lots of quintessential Baroque melody and counterpoint, and the mood spans the spectrum from melancholy to lively. The first movement from the first sonata, in E-flat, and the second movement from the fourth sonata, in E minor are pretty representative.

(Samples taken from Peter Hurford's recording of Bach's complete organ works.)
posted by chrismear at 8:47 AM on November 8, 2007

Thanks chrismear. You're a proper gent!
posted by deeper red at 9:11 AM on November 8, 2007

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