Johann Sebastian Bach, Triosonate nr 5, BWV 529, 1st movement | Sectrets of Organ Playing Contest, week 63

This is my entry for the Secrets of Organ Playing Contest, week 63. I play the first part of the 5th Triosonata by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bach 6 triosonatas are generally regarded as one of Bach's masterpieces for organ. They are also considered to be amongst his most difficult compositions for the instrument. As they are triosonates the texture is very open and all three voices can be clearly heard. The player sees himself before the monumental task to keep close attention to phrasing and articulation of all three voices and cannot waver in concentration for even a second. The slightest mistake can be easily heard.

So, I just stayed away from them.

Until a few weeks ago I started playing on the sample set of the Klapmeyer organ in the St Nicolai church in Altenbruch. It's sound immediately seemed perfect to me for Bach's Triosonatas and I decided to try to master at least one of those intimidating compositions. They are all 6 of them beautiful pieces, yet the 5th is the first one I ever heard as a youngster. I can't say it is the most beautiful one, as they are all 6 beautiful. Nevertheless, as it is the first one I ever heard and I still remember the impact it had on me, I have a weak spot for the fifth sonata.

Although the score of these sonatas is readily available on imslp, I transcribed the music anew from the (digital copy of the) autograph. I wanted to render it as closely as possible as Bach himself had notated it. Most modern notation only use treble and bass clef. Bach himself made frequent use of the various C-clefs as well. Paper was expensive in those days, and by using the C-clefs staves could be drawn close to each other. Bach did not need ledger lines between staves, because if a part becomes to low for the treble clef Bach just switches to the alto clef. And that his how he played and saw them himself: with frequent clef switches. Playing from the same visual input brings me just a little closer to Bach himself, and I imagine it helps playing this musicauthentically.

This first part takes, in the tempo I chose, a little over 7 minutes to play. And 7 minutes of rather fast past trio writing is almost impossible to play without error. For me at least. I hope you'll forgive me the occasional error. Perhaps I should have waited a bit before playing this for the contest. However, I'm really excited that I now play one movement of those fantastic pieces and I wanted to share that. There are two more movements to master and still a lot of work to be done on this movement. Yet this is where I am now and I am already quite pleased with that.


Comments 12

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11.03.2020 22:15

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13.03.2020 09:58

Excellent performance! You must feel so good about learning this piece. Interesting to see your score switches from alto to treble clef in some parts.

13.03.2020 22:10

Yes, it feels like I've reached some milestone in organ playing. The nextr challenge is of course to practise the remaining two movements as well. Then I'll have truly reached the milestone "Performer of one of the Bach Triosonatas". Is there a badge for that on Steem?

14.03.2020 09:06

Let's create a badge! Only awarded if you record a Trio Sonata movement! @tormus1958 presented one of the slow movements a while ago. Can't remember which one.

14.03.2020 10:52

Re the clef switches: I follow Bach's autograph in clef usage. In the second movement it's even a bit more extreme: passages he first writes in treble clef are written with the alto clef in the recapitulation. Obviously Bach read the C-clef's as easily as he did treble and bass clef

14.03.2020 16:55

I played this piece long ago and you brought many wonderful memories... Thank you for the lovely trio!

16.03.2020 16:41

This was the first trio by J.S.Bach that I have played. So your playing evoked nice memories.

16.03.2020 16:42