Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Sonates pour orgue

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach 
Organ Sonatas 
Wotquenne 69 & Wotquenne 70/1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Kei Koïto
Holzhey Historical Organ (1785)
Sankt Peter und Paul Church, Weißenau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany 

"10" de Répertoire n°59


Throughout the last half of the eighteenth century, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), the second musician son of Johann Sebastian Bach, received far more recognition as a composer than did his father. Shortly after Emanuel Bach's death, the popularity of the two composers was reversed : Sebastian's works underwent a richly deserved revival; his son's name sank undeservedly into obscurity. Emanuel's eighteenth-century reputation as a composer had rested in large part on his works for keyboard instruments; the faint remembrance in which the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries held his name continued to depend upon these works, and it is Bach's keyboard music that has led the revival of his music within the past 40 years.

Emanuel Bach was also famous as a performer on stringed keyboard instruments. We read glowing eighteenth-century descriptions of him as a harpsichordist, clavichordist, and fortepianist. But we do not know how well he played the organ. It is difficult to imagine that a son of Johann Sebastian Bach was not an excellently trained organist - Sebastian Bach owed what little recognition the eighteenth century granted him to his virtuosity as an organist, to his compositions for organ, and to his expertise as an appraiser of organs. In 1733, his oldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, aged 22, won a position as organist at the Sophienkirche in Dresden. But the nineteen-year-old Emanuel who applied later the same year for the post of organist at the Wenzelkirche in Naumburg was not successful, perhaps because he was not sufficiently experienced. In 1753, Emanuel Bach applied for a position as organist at the Johanniskirche in Zittau. Again he did not win the position - this time because he does not seem to have pursued his application energetically. Bach's career had proceeded in a different direction, and the organ seems to have played a relatively small part in his life.

In 1735, he had entered the Viadrina University in Frankfurt an der Oder as a student of law. Whether he really intended a career in law, or whether (as most music historians believe) he acquired an education in the law because of its practical use to him whatever his career, he led an active musical life during the years of study at the Viadrina. In 1738, he went to Berlin where his musical accomplishment - presumably his performance as a harpsichordist - attracted the attention of Frederick, Crown Prince of Prussia (known to posterity as Frederick the Great). Shortly after Frederick's accession to the Prussian throne in 1740, Bach was formally engaged as first harpsichordist of the court, a position that he held for almost 30 years.

In 1767, Emanuel Bach learned of the death of Georg Philipp Telemann, Music Director of the five principal churches of Hamburg; Bach, who was Telemann's godson, quickly applied for and secured the vacant appointment. He went to Hamburg the following year after protracted negotiations for his release from the King's service. The new position made great demands on Bach's time and energy; yet he managed to lead a busy social life and to bask in the fame that he had won as a composer, performer, and teacher. He was visited by many travellers to Hamburg, including the celebrated English music historian Charles Burney (1726-1814), and became renowned for his hospitality. Burney reported in the account of his travels that "Bach offered to accompany me to every church in Hamburg where a good organ was to be found." At the Michaeliskirche, Bach prevailed upon a good-natured amateur to demonstrate the organ for Burney. "M. Bach," Burney explained, "has so long neglected organ-playing, that he says he has lost the use of the pedals, which are thought so essential throughout Germany, that no one can pass for a player worth hearing, who is unable to use them."

Even though he was reluctant to perform for Burney, Emanuel Bach did not entirely forsake the organ during the course of his career. He served as a judge of applicants for organ positions in the Hamburg churches. And according to the catalogue of his musical estate, he composed the following works for organ during a short, but intense, engagement with the instrument :

Concerto in G Major, Wq 34, H.444
Fugue in E-Flat Major, Wq 119/6, H.102
Sonatas in G Minor, D Major, F Major, and A Minor,
Wq 70/6,5,3,4, H.87,86,84,85
Preludio in D Major, Wq 70/7, H.107
Sonata in B-Flat Major, Wq 70/2, H.134
Sonata in A Major, Wq 70/1, H. 133
Concerto in E-Flat Major, Wq 35, H.446

Why did Bach compose so many works for organ in this brief period? For the origin of the Sonatas and Preludio, at least, certain eighteenth-century sources have been adduced as evidence of his purpose. On the title page of a manuscript containing Wq 70/6,5,3,4 is a note (not conclusively attributable to Bach) stating that Bach wrote these four sonatas in 1755 "for a Princess who could not use a pedal or play difficult works, although she had a fine organ built, with two manuals and a pedal, and loved to play on it." A more respected source, the early nineteenth-century catalogue of Bach's works by the Schwerin organist J.J.H. Westphal, offers the information that all six sonatas and the Preludio were composed for Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia, the youngest sister of Frederick the Great. The Princess, who never married, devoted much of her time to the study of composition and to performing on various keyboard instruments, the violin, and the flute. The year 1755 was significant for her in two respects : she was appointed Abbess of Quedlinburg, and she had a new organ made by Johann Peter Migend, builder of the organ that Burney pronounced Berlin's biggest and best.

The allegation that Emanuel Bach's Preludio and Organ Sonatas were written for Princess Amalia has much plausibility and has received wide acceptance. On at least one occasion Bach demonstrated his desire to please Amalia by dedicating a published collection to her : the first volume of Sonatas with Varied Reprises, Wq 50, H.136-139, 126, 140. Amalia held Bach in great esteem, and when he left Berlin to go to Hamburg, she gave him the title of "honorary Cappelmeister". Yet one or two puzzling circumstances challenge the assumption that Bach composed a group of organ sonatas expressly for Princess Amalia.

No collection of either four or seven organ compositions is to be found in the library that Amalia bequeathed to the Joachimsthal Gymnasium (although the dedication copy of the Sonatas with Varied Reprises is carefully preserved in this library). No mention of such a collection exists in any of the catalogues of Amalia's library (the first of several catalogues was drawn up in 1782, five years before her death) - in fact, only one of Emanuel Bach's organ sonatas is preserved in the Amalienbibliothek. Nor is there any mention among Bach's records of a group of organ sonatas intended for the Princess. It seems, moreover, that Bach might have hesitated to publish two of the sonatas, Wq 70/1 and 2, in anthologies containing "harpsichord sonatas" if he had previously presented them to Amalia.

Very likely, the works of Wq 70, except for the Preludio, which categorically demands an organ with pedals, were not intended exclusively for the organ. Bach's reputation as a keen businessman who sought the widest possible circulation for his music has survived - along with his reputation as a champion of the keyboard - into the twentieth century, and the sources of the sonatas of Wq 70 support this reputation. Each of the sonatas exists in eighteenth-century manuscripts or prints that stipulate stringed keyboard instruments as well as in sources that designate the organ. Each has features that are characteristic of sonatas that Bach designated explicitly for stringed keyboard instruments drumming left-hand accompaniments, full vertical sonorities in quick succession, and expressive appoggiaturas.

Yet these works also contain passages that were undoubtedly conceived for the organ : long sustained notes, suspensions, contrapuntal passages that are more intelligible on an instrument capable of sustaining voices. The sonatas of Wq 70, with their interesting mixture of idioms, could undoubtedly be played on whatever keyboard instrument happened to be at hand.

A collection titled Preludio e Sei Sonate pel Organo composte dal Signor Carlo Filippo Emanuele Bach, published in 1790 or 1791 by Johann Carl Friedrich Rellstab of Berlin, suggests answers to some of the vexing questions about the origins of Emanuel Bach's organ works and further demonstrates the versatility of his compositions for keyboard instruments. Rellstab had incurred Bach's violent resentment in 1786, when he defiantly published an unauthorized version of the Sonatas with Varied Reprises. Around 1790/1791, Rellstab assembled a posthumous collection of C.P.E. Bach's organ works, which included the Preludio, all of the sonatas of Wq 70 except the first (H.133), and Bach's Sonata in D Minor, Wq 69, H.53, "for a harpsichord with two manuals" written in 1747. Rellstab transposed Wq 70/4, H.85, from A Minor to G Minor and Wq 69, H.53, from D Minor to C Minor, and, in the other sonatas, made octave transpositions of notes that he believed to be out of the range of most house organs. Like the unauthorized edition of 1786, the posthumous edition was slipshod. Rellstab's preface alleged that all of the works in the collection were written for princess Amalia. Was Rellstab the original author of this allegation? Or was there, perhaps, a modicum of truth in it? Although conclusive answers to these questions may never be forthcoming, it seems possible that the claim that Bach wrote a collection of organ works for Princess Amalia is partly, at least, Rellstab's fabrication. Whatever truth there is in Rellstab's claim, his selection of Wq 69, H.53 as a substitute for Wq 70/1 illustrates the adaptability of Bach's works for keyboard : here a sonata originally designated for a harpsichord with two manuals and provided with registrations was appropriated for organ, transposed down a tone, and outfitted with new registrations. Most of Rellstab's contemporaries and most of the authors of twentieth-century editions of the organ sonatas have accepted the allegation that this sonata was one of the group composed for Princess Amalia, and none has questioned its suitability for the organ.

The compositions on this programme are piquant examples of Bach's style. They occupy a distinctive place among his keyboard works, combining the hypersensitive style that was in vogue during much of his career with more conservative idioms that were associated with the organ. These products of Bach's short-lived absorption with the organ, together with the Sonata in D Minor, Wq 69, H.53, furnish the organist with an engaging and elegant mid-eighteenth century repertory.

Darrell M. Berg
Washington University of Saint-Louis

Kei Koïto


Born of a family of artists, Kei Koïto began her musical studies at the age of six - successively piano, theory, voice, harpsichord and cello. She discovered the organ at the age of twelve, and this became her preferred instrument. After studying at the Tokyo University of the Arts where she obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (organ, musical aesthetics, philosophy and psychology), she entered the class of Pierre Segond at the Geneva Conservatory. There, she was awarded the First Prize "with distinction" in organ and improvisation, the Otto Barblan Prize for her interpretations of J.S. Bach, and the Special Grand Prize of the Year, all awarded unanimously. She then did advanced study in Fribourg with Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, in Toulouse with Xavier Darasse, and in Cologne with Reinhard Goebel. She also studied orchestration, analysis and composition with Eric Gaudibert.

While specializing primarily in the complete organ works of J.S. Bach, she also plays a great deal of the repertoire "around Bach": his precursors, contemporaries and successors. Her approach to this repertoire is coupled with thorough musicological research that seeks to bring together music and the most authentic historical instruments possible.

Regularly invited by the most prestigious festivals, she has performed on every continent. She plays the concerto repertoire with symphony and chamber orchestras and, with Baroque ensembles, the repertoire of that era. An interpreter of Liszt, Schumann and Brahms, she also devotes part of her career to contemporary music and has thus premiered numerous important works by renowned, as well as by young composers from all countries and cultures. As a composer, her imagination is often inspired by the soul of dead poets : Rimbaud, René Char, Hölderlin or Simone Weil. She has written several works for various formations and solo instruments.

In 1992, she was appointed professor of the advanced organ classes (Virtuosity and Concert diploma) at the Lausanne Conservatory. She gives master classes and lectures in Europe, the USA and Asia, and has sat on juries of the great international organ competitions. She is the founder and artistic director of the Lausanne Bach Festival and the International Bach Competition.

The Sankt Peter und Paul Church Historical organ in Weißenau


The organ in the church at Weißenau near Ravensburg (Baden-Württemberg), built from 1785 to 1787 by Johann Nepomuk Holzhey (1741-1809) - known during his lifetime as the "most famous organ-builder in Swabia" - is one of the most imposing and significant historic 18th century instruments in Southern Germany.

Holzhey's organs were built using a combination of traditional South-German and classical French styles. He became acquainted with French organ-making through Karl Joseph Riepp, who built the Ottobeuren instruments that today are famous world-wide. Both of these master craftsmen were natives of small villages close to Ottobeuren, but Riepp lived and worked in Dijon until he was commissioned to return to Germany and build two French-style organs there.

Holzhey incorporated basic aspects of French organ-making such as the numerous reed stops and characteristic design of the pedal board into his own personal style, while at the same time remaining faithful to his South German roots for others : the open and gamba stops, for example. Starting from a traditional instrument containing a maximum of some thirty stops on two manuals, Holzhey managed to create an extended and coherent three-manual system with about forty stops. His instruments were the richest and most versatile, musically; to be found in southern Germany at the time. Approximately forty organs were built at his Ottobeuren workshop, including four with three manuals and pedal board.

Holzhey's Weißenau instrument did not survive unaltered over the centuries. During the 19th century all the reed stops were removed and the brilliance of the mixture stops attenuated. However, the basic fabric of the organ was so original, it was not difficult to restore the missing components when renovations were carried out in 1989 (1). The characteristic solo stops (open, flute, gamba) were for the most part preserved.

Holzhey used a single size for all his open stops. Among these are the sesquialtera, a mixture stop with single third; and the "Hörnle", a diminished sesquialtera. There are also highly-coloured flute stops : the Copel, pipe flute, night horn, conical flute, open flute, flageolet. The expressive octave traverse flute stop deserves special mention, since its distinctive construction was an invention of Holzhey's. The gamba stops typical of Southern Germany (gamba, salicet, dulcina, cello, Fugari) are found on all the manuals. Two flowing flute stops (Copel and Viola) and the flowing gamba stops (salicet and "unda maris") provide additional subtle instrumental colouring. The reeds and cornet stops give the instrument power and brilliance. Unequal temperament was still widespread in Southern Germany at the time, and that used by Holzhey, despite the fact it has never been precisely duplicated, is reminiscent of a modified Werckmeister III. It retains the old tradition essential for the open-stop thirds in the mixture stop, the sesquialtera, the Hörnle, and the bass cornet, and also makes it possible to reach distant notes. The third manual contains the discreet notes of an echo stop set, which broaden the dynamic options and facilitate accurate performance of works standing midway between the baroque and romantic periods.

Ulrich Höflacher
Translated from the French adaptation

(1) Restoration by Hubert Sandtner, Dilligen/Donau.


Sonata Wq.70/5 H.86 (1755)
in D-dur/in D major/en ré majeur

Allegro di molto
Adagio e mesto

Sonata Wq.70/6 H.87 (1755)
in g-moll/in G minor/en sol mineur

Allegro moderato

Sonata Wq.70/3 H.84 (1755)
in F-dur/in F major/en fa majeur


Sonata Wq.69 H.53 (1747)
in d-moll/in D minor/en ré mineur


Sonata Wq.70/1 H.133 (1758)
in A-dur/in A major/en la majeur

Andante con Tenerezza

Preludio (Sonata) Wq.70/7 H.107 (1756)
in D-dur/in D major/en ré majeur

Grave, Presto, Grave, Presto

Sonata Wq.70/4 H.85 (1755)
in a-moll/in A minor/en la mineur

Allegro assai


"10de Répertoire n°59 :

L'œuvre pour orgue de CPE semble poser de multiples problèmes d'attribution pour les musicologues. Entre les pièces pour clavicorde à pédalier, orgue, mouvements manualiter envisageables à l'orgue et éditions adaptées de l'époque, il est difficile de faire le choix...
Ceci dit, saluons sans retenue la manière de Koïto. Son toucher expressif, son sens de la gaîté et de la ligne font merveille dans ce répertoire changeant typique de la nouvelle sensibilité qui traverse la musique allemande de la deuxième moitié du XVIIIème siècle. Ce répertoire est très exigeant car si l'on n'y sent pas la conduite de la ligne, il se parcellise en une succession d'événements sans solution de continuité. Koïto s'est merveilleusement imprégnée de cette musique et sait rendre claires les passions intenses de ce répertoire marquées par des contrastes d'exclamations violents (Wq. 69) et de silences soudains (Wq. 70/6). La musique de CPE, réputée scabreuse, compliquée et morcelée, coule ici de source. Certaines sonates sont complètement transformées par le jeu des registrations (la Wq. 70/5 devient une symphonie, la Wq. 70/3 une galante conversation d'opéra comique, la Wq. 70/4 un roman tourmenté). La vitalité et la tonicité de Koïto et surtout sa joie et son humour rendent cette musique passionnante alors qu'on l'entend bien trop souvent reléguée à une décoration de couvent baroque.
Il reste à saluer deux autres aspects de ce disque. L'instrument de Weißenau, un des plus beaux de l'Allemagne du Sud, est ici rendu avec un beau réalisme spatial (je conseille le Prélude Wq. 70/7 pour apprécier le plaisant chassé-croisé entre les deux buffets d'anches). De plus, la plaquette est superbe, comme souvent chez Harmonic Classics et cela ne gâte rien! - Michel Laize
Technique : 9/10. Prise aérée, large, superbe coloris, légère réverbération et quelques bruits de mécanique sans importance.

"Disque de référence" du Guide Gourmand des Musiques à l'Ancienne
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