The Organ chorales of the Leipzig manuscript, Schübler chorales – Johann Sebastian Bach

Vincent van Laar

In the oeuvre of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), the chorale – the Lutheran congregational hymn – plays a central role. This is hardly surprising, since for the greater part of his life Bach was a church musician, composing music suitable for liturgical use. At the same time he was very familiar with the chorale from his youth, for it was standard material in the music tuition of his age. Moreover, as a student Bach became acquainted with the music of his predecessors, the North German organists Reincken, Böhm and Buxtehude and the South German Pachelbel, for whom the chorale was a musical point of reference. Without the chorale, Bach‘s oeuvre would have been inconceivable.

This CD features 24 chorale preludes for the organ (BWV 645-668). Without exception, they stand in the tradition of the chorale-based music of Bach‘s predecessors. They therefore include pieces with the unornamented chorale tune in the pedal (BWV 651 and 661), others with the melody ornamented (BWV 653, 654, 659 and 662), chorale trios (BWV 655 and 664), and works employing traditional contrapuntal techniques like canon, fugue and imitation (BWV 652 and 665).