Bach Clavier-Übung III Stephen Farr

Cover Bach Clavier-Übung III

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Album including Album cover Booklet (PDF)


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  • J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
  • 1Prelude08:57
  • 2Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, BWV 66903:27
  • 3Christe, aller Welt Trost, BWV 67005:02
  • 4Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist, BWV 67105:30
  • 5Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, BWV 67201:53
  • 6Christe, aller Welt Trost, BWV 67301:45
  • 7Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist, BWV 67401:58
  • 8Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr, BWV 67503:26
  • 9Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr, BWV 67605:21
  • 10Fughetta super Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr, BWV 67701:07
  • 11Dies sind die heilgen zehen Gebot, BWV 67805:03
  • 12Fughetta super Dies sind die heiligen zehen Gebot, BWV 67902:10
  • 13Wir glauben all an einen Gott, BWV 68003:22
  • 14Fughetta super Wir glauben all an einen Gott, BWV 68101:25
  • 15Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV 68206:29
  • 16Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV 68301:12
  • 17Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam, BWV 68404:17
  • 18Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam, BWV 68501:26
  • 19Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 68606:54
  • 20Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 68706:03
  • 21Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der von uns den Zorn Gottes wandt, BWV 68804:21
  • 22Fuga super Jesus Christus unser Heiland, BWV 68905:02
  • 23Duet No. 1 in E minor, BWV 80202:36
  • 24Duet No. 2 in F major, BWV 80303:34
  • 25Duet No. 3 in G major, BWV 80402:46
  • 26Duet No. 4 in A minor, BWV 80502:51
  • 27Fugue06:57
  • Total Runtime01:44:54

Info for Bach Clavier-Übung III

The internationally acclaimed organist Stephen Farr presents his first J.S. Bach recording with the virtuosic Clavier-Übung III. Containing some of Bach's most stunning work, this collection demonstrates the composer at the height of his powers in composing for the organ and was one of the few works that Bach had published during his lifetime.

Bach published four works under the title Clavier Übung (literally 'keyboard practice') during his lifetime. No. 1 is the Six Partitas BWV825-830, no. 2 is the Italian Concerto BWV 971 and French Overture BWV 831 and no. 4 is the Goldberg Variations. Only Clavier Übung III, sometimes known as the German Organ Mass, is specifically marked as being for organ. The other three are more generically marked as being for clavier (keyboard) and are commonly played on the harpsichord. Clavier Übung III appeared in print in Leipzig in 1739, with the title page dedicating its contents to 'music lovers for the recreation of their spirits', though Bach adds ' and especially for connoisseurs of such work'.

Quite who Bach's intended audience for the performance of these pieces was is not entirely clear. His other published collection of organ pieces, the Orgelbuchlein (1708-1717) had a clear purpose in providing a repertoire of pieces usable in the Lutheran service. But Clavier Übung III does not seem to have had such a purpose, some of the pieces are simply too big to be used in a service and others have no apparent place in the liturgy.

On this new recording from Resonus Classics (available for download only), Stephen Farr plays the work on the Metzler organ of Trinity College, Cambridge. This instrument dates from 1975, but contains seven ranks of pipework from earlier instruments installed by Father Smith in 1694 and 1708. It is a mechanical action and is based in the original cases. It is a fine instrument indeed, and one in a fine acoustic, which is ideal for playing the music of Bach. Farr is Director of Music at St Paul’s Knightsbridge in London, and ACE Foundation Director of Music at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

The collection consists of a framing Prelude and Fugue which were in fact after thoughts. Following the opening prelude, the main part of the collection consists of a series of chorale settings. The first group is based on the German Kyrie and Gloria tunes from the Lutheran liturgy, six Kyrie settings and three Gloria settings. The Kyrie settings split further, revealing another aspect of the collection, chorale settings both with and without pedals.

The Kyrie and Gloria settings are followed by chorale settings based on six German catechism hymns (covering the Ten Commandments, the Creed, Lord's Prayer, Baptism, Repentance and Eucharist). Each chorale setting exists in two versions a large one with pedals and a small one without. These pedal/no pedal works are presented in alternation. Finally there are four duets, probably a late addition to the collection and rather akin to the two-part inventions. To complete things there is the fugue, the glorious St. Anne's Fugure a fitting conclusion to a major work.

All in all, Bach probably didn't intend us to sit down and listen to the collection from end to end, or did he? The work acts as a compendium of organ styles, both ancient and modern, and in structure probably owed something to Bach's own organ recitals. Add to this that the texts from the chorales act as a practical translation of Lutheran doctrine into musical terms for devotional use in the church or the home. In fact the the number of chorale preludes (21) corresponds to the number of movements in a French organ mass.

I've never heard the Trinity College organ live, alas, but the recording seems to capture the richness and depth of the voicing, along with the bloom of the acoustic but always allied to a fine clarity. You can always hear what's going on in even the most complex of Bach's counterpoint, without it ever feeling like a tutorial. Farr is attractively imaginative in his use of registrations, and notable for the way his solo stops bring out the chorale melody. Farr's tempi are flexible and flowing, you feel that he neither plods nor rushes.

The recording is a very fine achievement, combining technical skill with a naturalness of playing, allied to the fine mechanical action Metzler organ so that this is a collection that I could happily come back to again and again.

The recording is available for download only and Resonus Classics offers a wide range of formats from MP3 to 24-bit/96kHz studio quality masters. The recording comes with a PDF booklet which includes the full specification for the organ and the registrations used in the recording, along with the texts and translations for all the chorales plus photographs of the organ's historic cases.

There are of course other recordings, many in fact. Christopher Herrick has recorded the collection on another Metzler organ, Kare Nordstoga has recorded it on the historic Schnitger organ at the St. Michaelis Church at Zwolle in the Netherlands (dating from 1721 and restored by Flentrop in 1958), Wolfgang Rubsam (on Naxos) plays them on the historic Gottfried Silbermann organ in the Cathedral at Freiburg in Germany. (Robert Hugill,

'It's a courageous first foray into the german master's music [...] Farr rises to the occasion, turning in performances that are as varied and vital as the music demands, intricate details inked with telling clarity and the elongated arc of the whole negotiated with nimble and nuanced aplomb. Superb recorded sound.' (Choir and Organ - 5 stars)

'All lovers of Bach's music should be prepared to order this new Resonus recording [...] I was so completely sold on this new recording I have no real reservations.' (MusicWeb International)

'The recording is a very fine achievement, combining technical skill with a naturalness of playing, allied to the fine mechanical action Metzler organ so that this is a collection I would happily come back to again and again.' (Planet Hugill)

Stephen Farr, organ

Recorded on the Metzler Organ, Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge

Judith Bingham - Composer
Born in Nottingham in 1952, and raised in Mansfield and Sheffield, Judith Bingham began composing as a small child, and then studied composing and singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She was awarded the Principal’s prize in 1971, and 6 years later the BBC Young Composer award. Recent composition prizes include: the Barlow Prize for a cappella music in 2004, two British Composer Awards in 2004 (choral and liturgical) one in 2006 (choral) and the instrumental award in 2008.

Judith Bingham was a member of the BBC Singers for many years, and between 2004 and 2009 she was their ‘Composer in Association’, during which time she wrote a series of choral works. Several of these were for the BBC Singers, but there were also pieces for other professional, amateur and collegiate choirs, including Salt in the Blood, written for the BBC Symphony Chorus to perform at the 1995 Proms, a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for King’s College Cambridge, and diverse anthems and church works for many UK cathedrals. A CD of some of her choral works –‘Remoter Worlds’ by the BBC Singers was released in 2009 on the Signum label. In 2007 she was made a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music for distinguished services to church music.

Although Bingham’s output is marked by the number and variety of its choral works, she has always been seen as an all-rounder, and the scope of her activities has included pieces for brass band, symphonic wind ensemble and various chamber groups and solo instruments, concertos for trumpet and bassoon and tuba, and several impressive works for large orchestra. She has written a substantial body of pieces for organ including Jacob’s Ladder, a concerto written for Stephen Cleobury and Philip Brunelle. A CD of her organ music performed by Tom Winpenny will be released in 2010. A carol God would be born in thee was performed at the King’s College Cambridge Nine Lessons and Carols at Christmas 2004 and was released by EMI on the CD ‘On Christmas Day’. Recently her works have included See and Keep Silent for the BBC Singers and Guy Johnston, and Shadow Aspect for choir, organ and timpani, written for the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union.

Stephen Farr - Organist
Stephen Farr is Director of Music at St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, and at Worcester College, Oxford, posts which he combines with a varied career as soloist, continuo player, and conductor. He was Organ Scholar of Clare College, Cambridge, graduating with a double first in Music and an MPhil in musicology. He then held appointments at Christ Church, Oxford, and at Winchester and Guildford Cathedrals.

A former student of David Sanger and a prizewinner at international competition level, he has an established reputation as one of the leading recitalists of his generation, and has appeared in the UK in venues including the Royal Albert Hall (where he gave the premiere of Judith Bingham’s The Everlasting Crown in the BBC Proms 2011); Bridgewater Hall; Symphony Hall, Birmingham; Westminster Cathedral; King’s College, Cambridge, St Paul’s Celebrity Series and Westminster Abbey: he also appears frequently on BBC Radio 3 as both performer and presenter.

He has performed widely in both North and South America (most recently as guest soloist and director at the Cartagena International Music Festival), in Australia, and throughout Europe.

He has a particular commitment to contemporary music, and has been involved in premieres of works by composers including Patrick Gowers, Francis Pott and Robert Saxton; he also collaborated with Thomas Adès in a recording of Under Hamelin Hill, part of an extensive and wide-ranging discography.

His concerto work has included engagements with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra and the London Mozart Players; he made his debut in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 2005. He has also worked with many other leading ensembles including the Berlin Philharmonic (with whom he appeared in the premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s Weltethos under Sir Simon Rattle in October 2011), Florilegium, the Bach Choir, Holst Singers, BBC Singers, Polyphony, The English Concert, London Baroque Soloists, City of London Sinfonia, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Wallace Collection, Endymion Ensemble, the Philharmonia, Academy of Ancient Music, Britten Sinfonia and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Booklet for Bach Clavier-Übung III

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