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Bach’s legacy was of the greatest importance to Mendelssohn in all his music-making, but inescapably in his writing for organ. In a letter of July 1839 he urged his sister Fanny to ‘take a look at the C Major Fugue by Bach [BWV545]—I am so much in love with it, yesterday I played it to myself fifty times’.
His Six Sonatas for Organ, Op 65, are really collections of movements in related keys, and they do not follow the traditional sonata structure. They originated as 24 individual pieces composed between 1844 and 1845 and were assembled in response to a commission from the English publisher Coventry and Hollier, who suggested to Mendelssohn that he write some ‘Voluntaries’.
The first, in F minor, is the most varied; its opening movement presents a fugal texture, interspersed by statements of successive phrases of the Lutheran chorale ‘Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh’ allzeit’. A quiet adagio is reminiscent of his Songs without Words and the King’s musicologist Philip Radcliffe observed that the ‘recitative’ that followed ‘looked back to the early Piano Sonata in E and forward to certain things of César Franck’. It ends with an ‘exhilarating toccata-like’ finale.
from notes by Emma Cleobury © 2016
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