The complete contents of the booklet are available here at any time: set up as text or as download for printing on DIN A4 sheets.
The download version is deliberately designed to save ink without unnecessary graphic elements.
The text is by the performer himself. Here you will also find out why the work is played on organ and its advantages.
For a better overview, the registrations and the track index are only in the download version.
J.S.Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier I
Jan Doležel on the Brandenstein-Organ
Das Wohltemperirte Clavier
durch alle Tone und Semitonia,
so wohl tertiam majorem oder Ut Re Mi anlan-
gend, als auch tertiam minorem oder Re
Mi Fa betreffend. Zum
Nutzen und Gebrauch der Lehrbegierigen
Musicalischen Jugend, als auch derer in diesem stu-
dio schon habil seyenden besonderem
und verfertiget von
Johann Sebastian Bach.
p. t: Hochfürstlich Anhalt-
Meistern und Directore
Preamble by J. S. Bach
On this recording, there are meeting two masterpieces that were created quite at the same time: The manuscript of the „Well-Tempered Clavier I“ shows the year 1722. The organ of Brandstein, that can be heard on this recording, was built only few earlier: in the year 1721.
The „Well-Tempered Clavier I“ played on the organ
For his compositions for keyboard instruments J.S. Bach commonly chose precisely one instrument. Whereas the „Clavier-Übung III“ is dedicated to the organ for example, the „Italian Concerto“ or the „English“ and „French Suites“ are attributed to the harpsichord.
Together with „The Art of Fugue“ the Well-Tempered Clavier belongs to the works which are exceptions. Here Bach – probable consciously - did not answer the question for the precise instrument.
Bach´s inspiration: Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer´s „Ariadne musica“
Precursor of the „Well-Tempered Clavier I“ was an organ work: „Ariadne musica“ of Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (1656-1746). Fischer was born in Schlackenwerth (today named Ostrov nad Ohří, Bohemia) and became later musician at the local court. His „Ariadne musica“ was first edited in 1702 and is dedicated to abbot Raimund Wilfert II. of monastery Teplá in Bohemia.
Some pieces of the work „Ariadne musica“ can be found in various literature of teaching organ today. Because of the short length (almost all pieces take less than two minutes time) they are often used as literature for studies. But they are real gems of organ literature and true master pieces. Fischer combines the form of prelude and fuge with a unique poetical component which has not existed before.
"Ariadne musica" consists of 20 preludes and fugues in 20 various keys. The pieces form a circle rising from C major to dorian mode in C: C major, C-sharp minor, D dorian, D major, E-flat major, E phrygian, E dorian, E major, F dorian, F-sharp major, F dorian, G dorian, G major, A-flat lydin, A minor, A major, B-flat major, B dorian, B major, C dorian.
Different to Bach the darker minor keys sound first (mostly written down as Gregorian modes, which follows of course an internal logic), afterwards there are the brighter major keys. Following to this there should again come the Prelude in C major after the last Fugue in C dorian. Instead of this Fischer adds also five ricercars with topics of the liturgical year: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost.
The Prelude in C major begins like in the Well-tempered Clavier I with a triad with the third on top. Later Bach copied in the Well-tempered Clavier II the theme of the Fugue in E major from Fischer.
Fischer is named among the most famous composers for keyboard instruments of this time in the first biography of Bach by Johann Nikolaus Forkel. In a letter from Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach to Forkel it is written, that Bach loved and studied also the music of Kapellmeister Fischer - next to today more familiar names like Buxtehude, Pachelbel or Froberger.
As Johann Sebastian Bach travelled to Karlsbad with his employer Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen in 1720, he came in just the radius, where Johann Caspar Fischer lived and published his „Ariadne musica“. Schlackenwerth is about ten kilometres from Karlsbad, monastery Tepl about 40 kilometres.
Unfortunately, Bach and Fischer haven´t met each other at this occasion. Since at least 1715 Fischer was “Hofkapellmeister” in Rastatt in Baden (Germany).
Understanding the Well-tempered Clavier I
The interpreter can and does not want to deny that his view of the Well-tempered Clavier I was influenced stongly by the analysis of Prof. Christoph Bossert.
In Prof. Bossert´s view the creation of the Well-Tempered Clavier I is related to Bach´s journey to Karlsbad in 1720. Only after his arrival back in Köthen Bach was told, that his wife Maria Barbara had become ill, died and had been buried for a few days.
According to Prof. Bossert Bach proccessed in a manner mentally the death of his wife in this work. Bossert draws his theory on nomerous indications of number symbolism, especially on „musical signatures“ postulated by himself. This „musical signatures“ are not only the today common melodic motives like the cross motif, but also numerous short, catchy motives which are more than an abstract attempt at interpretation for an attentive interpreter.
In the work a drama takes place. The climax of all is a grand vision of resurrection in Fugue A minor and Prelude B-flat major. Hereby reading of Prof. Bossert´s analysis is highly recommended to interested readers.
Another approach to this music can be found in attentively playing it on the organ. With the sound of organ it becomes fast clear, that this work has a intimate note in core and represents not only finger exercises or even études which is insisted sometimes.
However, the drama inside the music can be illustrated truly only by interpreting on the organ. On the one hand subtle pieces show an almost heavenly harmony with a smooth single stop. On the other hand weighty pieces deliver immense power in the full organ sound of organo pleno. According to the interpreter similar importantance seams to have the oportunity to combine various stops to form an orchestra (ensemble) or choir.
All these opportunities are gone playing the work on clavichord or harpsichord or even on modern piano. Such a vast spread of forms of expression cannot be used on this instruments like on organ.
The fundamental change of sound among the pieces has great influence on the perceived whole shape of the work. But it also works the other way round: The perceived whole of he work asks for certain registrations of the single pieces. Thus finding suitable registration – i.e. the sounding arrangement of the work – is only possible by considering the character of the single pieces and the whole work.
Adaption for organ
During recording was played from common music sheets. No intervention in the musical text was necessary. The only exception can be found shortly before the end of Fugue E major. The in the manual missing low C-sharp could not be replaced by pedal in the low octave with Subbaß because of the registration with Spitzflauten 4´. Thus it was necessary to play at a eighth note the tone E instead of C-sharp.
As usual in southern German baroque organ playing the pedal sounds additional to the bassline in the manual at some pedal points. This is of course particularly suitable in Fugue A minor, where is a pedal point at the end which is unattainable to sound on clavichord and harpsichord because of its unable holding and its length in duration.
In some pieces the pedal was used either for the last subject (Fugue C-sharp minor, Fugue F minor) or to mark the bass notes (Prelude E minor). Also Prelude B-flat major – the climax of the work – is played with pedal in the second half. Only there you can hear the loudest stop of the organ – Posaunenbaß 8´. Only in Fugue B-flat minor the pedal was used in general for the whole bassline.
The organ by Brandenstein of 1721 in Obereisenheim
The organ built by Brandenstein in the year 1721 in the Lutheran church in Obereisenheim belongs to the most important baroque organs in the southern German area. At first view it is a very modest instrument with only nine stops belonging to the manual and two stops in the pedal.
As typical for southern German baroque organ building there is attached great importance to a nuanced variety in timbre of 8´ and 4´ stops. Six out of nine stops in the manual - what is two thirds - are various 8´ and 4´ stops (in which the Prinzipal 8´is not original – see below).
By skilled selection or interesting combinations many uncommon sounds can be formed that cannot be found in other styles of organ building. Although the instrument is one of the smallest organs at all, it is excellent suited to the performance of the Well-Tempered Clavier.
Over time the instrument had to experience some grave substantial interventions. The most important points are the following:
In the year 1721 Johann Adam Brandenstein build a new organ with this stoplist:
Quint 1 1/3´ (not definitely proven)
Mixtur 3f. 1´
In 1739 Johann Rudolph Voit, an organbuilder from Schweinfurt integrated a Sesquialtera (presumably Terz 1 3/5´), probably instead of Quinte 1 1/3 ´.
In 1752 the Quintatön was changed with Gambe 8´ by the same organ builder and there was built a new wind chest with the additional stop Posaunenbaß (probably 8´). Moreover, the organ was moved to today´s postition on top of the altar. Thereby the organ was formed in this way:
Sesquialtera (Terz) 1 3/5´
Mixtur 3f. 1´
In 1871 Andreas Franz Dietmann adapted the stoplist of the organ on Romanticism and built a new freestanding organ console. The Posaunenbaß was eliminated and changed against Violonbaß 8´. Furthermore the Terz was changed to a Salizet.
By this renovation the actually Prinzipal 8´ became part of the organ. Without doubt it has baroque pipes of tin. Because there was not enough place for a diapason 8´ in full length (the organ´s casing is only 4´ size), the low octave was built from wood. Probably it is a diapason of another organ which was given up at this time somewhere.
After renovation by A. F. Dietmann in 1871 the stoplist was following:
Mixtur 3f. 1´
There is no further information about the origin of the pipes of Prinzipal 8´. For restoration of the organ in 2005 there was the question, if this definitely not original stop should be eliminated or replaced by the original Terz 1 3/5´or even Quint 1 1/3´. The stop Prinzipal 8` has a very convincing sound (of course you must accept the low octave of wood) and in kind of reconstruction the obvisously baroque pipes were gone. Thus the stop was held. In the orgue of Obereinsheim the Prinzipal 8´ serves marvellously. The beautiful combinations in sound which can be made with this root stop prove the case for this decision.
In 1959 the instrument was restaurated by E. Bauer according to the knowledge of this time. Though the wedge bellows which received by then were unfortunately removed. Some local natives still remember the suppossable original bellows. Instead of the wedge bellows a huge magazine bellow was built in and a electrical motor. In proccess of this restoration the Gambe 8´ was shortened to Choralbaß 4´.
After modification by E.Bauer in 1959 the stoplist was:
Quint 3´ (neu)
Terz 1 3/5´ (neu)
Mixtur 3f. 1´
Choralbaß 4´ (out of Gambe 8´)
During the restoration in 2005 the firm Jann, and especially the organ voicer Frank Schüngel, succeeded to bring the instrument in today´s form. In spite of all modifications the material of the pipes is more or less original, solely the Quint 3´and Posaunenbaß 8´had been completly new reconstructed again.
Also the freestanding organ console from 1871 was quit and a new organ console reconstructed.
This is the stoplist after the restoration by Jann in 2005:
Principal 8´ (added by Dietmann in 1871, baroque pipes)
Quint 3´ (reconstructed after monastry of Weltenburg - J.C.Brandenstein)
Mixtur 3f. 1´
Thus today´s stoplist corresponds to non stage in history and maybe a compromise between the state of 1752 and the later grown state.
Because the pipes of Gambe 8´ could be proven beyond doubt in Choralbaß 4´ and thus a reconstruction of te Gambe was possible, a reconstruction to the state of 1721 was not up for debate. Thereby this very valuable stop would have been totally removed and displaced by a reconstructed Quintadena.
The state of 1752 would be best to implement in theory. Therefore the beautiful Prinzipal 8` - though not original - would have been replaced by a reconstructed Sesquialtera (Terz 1 3/5´).
The choice was made to hold the Prinzipal 8´. The way the original stops of Brandenstein Flaut 8´ and Gedeckt 8´ join together with the later added stops Gambe 8´and Prinzipal 8´ in one sound is remarkable.
(Souce: according to archiv works of Organbuilder Frank Schüngel)
The stop Gambe 8´
Probably the most valuable stop of the organ by Brandenstein in Obereisenheim is Gambe 8´. The inspiration of the sound by strings is unmistakable. Based on some well-preserved instruments in southern Germany it is assumed that such sounds were rather normal than an isolated phenomenon in those days.
The pipes seem to be built possibly simply: The 8´pipes have exact the same diameter in size like pipes of a diapason 4´ of this key (in scaling the diameter is half). The voicing is done only by influencing the size of the languid, without nicking the languid or other helps for articulation.
As a result the sound is extremely fragile, brittle, with quite non muted overtones. The Gambe fits perfectly with other stops just because of this large range of overtones. The frequencies of the stops encounter each other in countless points of contact and touch also -and this maybe even more important – other frequencies of the Gambe itself.
This joinability enables many unpredictable combinations of sound which seem to react to subtle nuances in striking the keyboards by the organ player. But in fact it is the attentive player who modulates his playing to the present timbre of sound by the Gambe. However, it is clear that the Gambe can sound very different depending on the style of playing by the organist. During production of this CD especially the pieces with Gambe were recorded several times and there are not two versions that sound absolutely the same.
During restoration of the organ in 2005 the Gambe was found in miserable condition with pipes shortened to a Choralbass 4´. It is amazing how organ voicer Frank Schüngel succeeded bringing the stop back to life. Hopefully, such sounds will again become part of our understanding of sound by suitable restorating and building organs.
Altough the Gambe was later added to the organ in 1752, it fits well with the original sounding of the organ and with Bach´s aesthetics of sound.
(Source: according to organ restorator Frank Schüngel´s notes)
The art of registration
In opposite to interpretation on harpsichord, clavichord or piano the organ offers a wonderful opportunity: distinctive changes of timbre.
Thereby the organist inevitably adjoins composition. Each choice of timbre becomes an element of musical form that influences the entire shape and therefore the impact of this work.
Bach himself obviously used the timbres of the organ with plenty of imagination. In “Johann Sebastian Bach: His Life, Art, and Work” Johann Nikolaus Forkel wrote the following in 1802:
“To these qualities must be added the exquisite art Bach displayed in combining the stops of the Organ. His registration frequently astonished organists and Organ builders, who ridiculed it at first, but were obliged in the end to admit its admirable results and to confess that the Organ gained in richness and sonority.”
The registrations heard on this recording were found during a long proccess. Most important purpose was to show the played work in its variety. At once great attention was paid to the whole shape of the work which is influenced inevitably by registration.
In contrast seeking as many different and unusual timbres of sound as possible was unimportant. Without any problem at all it would have been possible not to repeat any single combination and play the whole work with 48 different registrations. Many further registrations which are historically proven or in the interpreter´s mind can not be found in this recording.
The way of finding registrations for this work – one can say: to find the right manner of sounding – was chosen to point up shape and content of the work as well als possible. Some registrations are repeated and this is a quite reflected and well considerated decision.
In the limited space of a booklet it is impossible to give a comprehensive representation of the inner logic of registration. For a little view into the interpreter´s intellectual world there are following some thoughts about it.
To avoid ending up in the dead end of arbitrariness it is necessary to think in particular categories. These can refer to the work als well as to the organ, the place and especially to the sound of single stops.
Some categories are mentioned here:
- single stops against combinations (like Solo against orchestra)
- single pieces against the whole work
- development over time, increase or reduction
- wide phrases against polyphony (long-term against short-term events)
- Filling the room against sending a few impulses into the room
- scaling with large or tight diameter
- open against “gedackt”-pipes
- pipes out of metal or of wood
- fast against slow articulation
- development during phonation of a pipe
- interferences against joining together of single stops
and so on…
Each stop behaves like a independent instrument. For the impact of each piece it is very important, if it is played only by one instrument or by many of them at once.
For example, in the first prelude in C major and in the last prelude in B minor, it seems necessary to the interpreter to play them with a single stop. One can also think about a combinations of stops there, but the fundamental, introverted impact of this music is made better, if the sound is more simple.
A contrast between combination and a single stop can be seen in the line from Prelude in E-flat minor to Fugue in E major. A combination of Flaut and Gedackt ( Prelude in E-flat minor) is followed by a reduction to the single Flaut 8´(Fugue in D-flat minor). Afterwards a new reduction from open flute to the simple Gedackt 8´(Prelude in E major) is followed by a reduction one octave higher with Spitzflauten 4´(Fugue in E major).
A marvellous combination of Prinzipal 8´, Flaut 8´ und Gambe 8´ in Prelude in E minor sets a huge contrast to the former pieces and draws a bow back to Fugue in E-flat major in which sounded at last in a combination of Gambe and Gedackt.
In this context the effect of Gedackt 8´ is interesting. This stop articulates fastest so that the beginning of articulation and thus the character of other stops can be covered quickly. While hearing the human ear is geared very much to the very first sounds that reach the ear (law of the first wavefront). Therefore great caution is advised using the Gedackt in combinations. Otherwise a quiet Gedackt can level a interesting combination immediately.
The combination of all four 8´-stops (Prinzipal, Flaut, Gambe, Gedackt) is used only in Fugue B-flat minor. In this case the weighty effect triggered by the Gedackt is of particular importance for the grave piece.
Gedackt 8´ suits well for solistique use and for the wunderful combination with Flaut 8´. Within this combination always small interferences occur between the two stops because of their completely different structures of overtones. Sometimes this effect is also called a fine tremble. It is one of the most important timbres of the southern German Baroque.
Contrary to the wide flute which suits well to wide phrases (e.g. Prelude C-sharp major, Prelude B major) the Gedackt means an extreme reduction with his inherently odd-numbered overtones (which means quite half of the flute´s overtone frequencies). As a result, its sound supports only for brief moments, which makes it wonderfully predestined for polyphony, because the voices lasting on one tone do not mask the other voices (e.g. Prelude in E major, Prelude in B minor).
The kinds of „Organo pleno“ are various at the organ of Obereisenheim. Because of its overtones already a combination of 8´ + 4´ + 3´ + 2´ sounds like a little Plenum. Thereby you can use different 8´ stops: With Prinzipal 8´ in Fugue C-sharp minor sounding like a hymn or in the rhythmical Fugue in A major, with Flaut 8´ in the lively dancing Fugue in G major, or with Prinzipal 8´, Gedackt 8´ und Gambe 8´ like in the gravy Fugue in A-flat major.
At the beginning the fugues raise in the sound of diapasons from Fugue in C major (Gedackt 8´+ Octav 4´) to Fugue in C minor (Prinzipal 8´ + Octav 4´ + Quint 3´), Fugue in C-sharp minor (Prinzipal 8´, Octav 4´, Quint 3´, Superoctav 2´) up to the combination of all diapason stops in Fugue D major.
The Gambe 8´ is a trinket of the organ. Used solostically it produces marvellous sounding effects like in the Preludes in C major and D minor. It suits also well to slow polyphony (Fugue G-sharp minor). Especially repeated notes point out the importance of noisy voicing: Used correctly the stop sounds like a real Viola da Gamba in the lower range.
This effect occurs only if voicing was done consequently courageously and the overtones have not been plained assisting the sound´s developement over the time of a tone and constant change (just like a real string where playing a plain note over the whole time would be very difficult).
The combinations with Gambe are very diverse. Flaut 8´ and Gambe 8´ make together a very expressive, almost orchestral timbre (Prelude C-sharp minor, Prelude F minor, Fugue F-sharp minor). Adding Prinzipal 8´ makes a charming, broad timbre which was used in two extra weighty pieces: Prelude in E minor and Fugue in B minor.
In combination Flaut and Gambe sound in a sense like a diapason . Because the organ has also the real diapason Prinzipal 8´, the timbre in the last Fugue B minor is a kind of „double diapason“.
The unit of the two last pieces can be explained like that:
Prelude B minor sounds in the most fundamental timbre of a solistic Gedackt 8´. Gedackt 8` stands for a maximum of reduction. Whereas another fundamental timbre can be heard in Fugue B minor, the Prinzipal 8, which is extended by addition of Gambe 8´ and Flaut 8´ to a double diapason like a choir.
An important feature of the organ in Obereisenheim – rather of all well preserved baroque organs – is the progress of volume within the single stops. The maximum can be found in the range of tenor, a gentle decrease from c 2 upwards.
The emphasis of tenor range - about from g to d1 – supports perception of polyphony, because the voices in the middle get an acoustical benefit in this way. Even more important though is the degression in the upper range of the keyboard. The charm of Spitzflauten 4´ in Fugue E major results particularly from sounding the uppest pitches such gentle. Also the end of Fugue C major is that convincing, because the chord with its pitch completely in the range of the second octave in Prinzipal 4´ seems not too loud in consequence of the volume degression.
This effect of degression refers only to the perceived volume of fundamental tones – means the tones that are heard consciously. It is very important that the spectrum of overtones sunstains entirely.
The registrations in detail can be found on page 20 and 21.
With fresh breath
During recording the organ was played exclusively by “handmade”, manually operated wind. Sound quality and the ability of the single stops to join in one sound increase with wind quality. The quality of manually operated wind is different from wind made by electric blowers. Critical point seems to be the calm in the column of air:
An organ motor fills the bellow continuously with whirled wind around, which leads to a slightly hectic begin of resonation in the pipes. On the other hand, a sensitive calcant (the manually bellowing person) can produce very calm wind which can be compared with the column of air of well-trained wind instrumentalists.
If this calm wind comes into the pipes, the sound of the organ becomes softer and the begin of resonation in the pipes less strained. From that benefits also the ability of the single stops to join in one sound which may be the most important characteristic of Southern German baroque organs at all.
Unfortunately there were no further funds to reconstruct the original bellows during restoration in 2005. Thus the organ has a big magazine bellow (circa 2 x 1 metre) which can be used with motor or also operated by foot. Because of flurries while playing by motor there was added a little bellow on the trunk just before the manual´s wind chest to correct the wind.
But while playing with operated wind just this little corrective bellow troubles. In this case the flurries seem to be caused there. As the recording was made without motor, this little bellow was pressed and thus switched off. Just the same observation the interpreter made at the organ of Baumeister in Maihingen from 1737. There were added little corrective bellows in „Rückpositiv“, too. They help, if the organ is played by motor, but disturb, if the bellows are operated by hand.
Although the bellows are not yet original, the organ´s sound benefits enormously from operated wind.