'The Leipzig Collection' explores the music of Bach's Leipzig and includes the complete trio sonatas as well as some beautiful arrangements of chorales.
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr and Herr Jesu Christ dich zu uns wend are from the collection known as the Leipzig Chorales, owing to its having been put together in the eponymous city; the works were originally composed during Bach’s period as court organist in Weimar between 1708 and 1717. The Schübler Chorales BWV645–650, so-called after the student Georg Schübler who published them in 1748, are largely transcriptions for two-manual organ with pedal from Bach’s Leipzig cantatas. Kommst du nun, Jesu, von Himmel herunter? comes from Cantata 137, Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren; the well-known Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme is from Cantata 140. The chorale prelude Das alte Jahr vergangen ist dates from the first decade of the eighteenth century, when Bach was organist at Arnstadt (1703-07) and Mülhausen (1707-08).
Bach wrote the six trio sonatas BWV525–530 in Leipzig during the late 1720s for the musical instruction of his son Wilhelm Friedemann, although he drew on material composed earlier. As with all of Bach’s works ostensibly suggesting a mere pedagogical intent, these pieces also allowed him to explore and synthesise various styles and idioms. In these works, Italian ritornello form is married to the rich polyphonic tradition of the North; the textures of the trio sonata as chamber music are transferred to the manuals and pedal of the organ.
In addition to Bach’s duties as cantor of St. Thomas’s school and music director of the four city churches (St. Thomas, St. Nicholas, St. Paul and the New Church) in Leipzig during the period 1723-1750, he also (in 1729) took over the running of the Collegium Musicum. The Collegium, which met weekly at Zimmerman’s coffee house, comprised students and gifted amateurs who placed themselves under the directorship of professional musicians such as Bach; together they performed the latest music, instrumental, chamber, orchestral or vocal. Two such works, for which Collegium performance materials survive from the mid-1730s, included the sonata in G for violin and continuo BWV1021 and the sonata in G for two flutes and continuo BWV1039. The violin sonata, the manuscript (written in Anna Magdalena Bach’s hand but bearing bass figures and other markings by Bach himself) of which only came to light in 1928, shares the same bass line as the sonata for flute, violin and continuo BWV1038; its texture is quite clearly that of a trio sonata. Bach later reworked the sonata for two flutes as a gamba sonata. It’s also worth mentioning that one of the guest musicians to have performed at the Bachische Collegium Musicum (as it was known) was the famous lutenist Sylvius Leopold Weiss – making it not unrealistic that the sonatas might have been performed as arranged on the present disc.
William Yeoman © 2005