'German Organ Mass'
(BWV 552, 669-689, 802-805)
Original size of plate: c.16.5 x 23.5 cm
Original size of paper: ranging from 22.7 x 28.4 cm
to 25.6 x 30.5 cm.
Dimension: 21.9 x 30.8 cm
||Johann-Sebastian Bach: Clavier-Übung 3e Partie (Orgue)
1739. Présentation par Philippe Lescat. Fac-similé Jean-Marc
Fuzeau: Collection Dominantes. No. 2812
||Courlay: Editions J. M. Fuzeau (1989), 29p text, 77p
facs; paper back. Price: Fr.F 198,00; Euro 28,61.
Postale 6, 79440 Courlay, France. Email:
||Facsimile of a copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale,
Paris (Res. Vm1 499)
in high-quality paper / print / binding; can be used for performance purposes.
||Scholars and music students who need to study Bach's
The so-called ‘German Organ Mass’
is Bach’s first published collection of organ works; it appeared in the
autumn of 1739. The work consists of several settings of Kyrie and Gloria
(in German), a pair of settings of the six catechism chorales and four duets,
all of which being sandwiched by the prelude and fugue in E-flat major.
For what occasion Bach composed this collection remains to be established, as definitive
evidence is still lacking; yet it is often assumed that Bach wrote it in
an attempt to secure the Royal title of Dresden, as his earlier attempt
of 1733 did not materialise. He may also have been aware that 1739 was the
bicentenary year for both Luther’s historic sermon at the Thomaskirche
in Leipzig (25 May 1739) and the Augsburg Confession (12 August 1739).
His involvement in the publication of the Schemellisches Gesangbuch
(1736) is another, which must have brought to his mind closely this sort
of compositions exclusively dealing with the chorale tunes. Yet the most
striking is the fact that it contains many modern stylistic elements, as
well as those of stile antico, when compared with his other collections
for organ, such as the ‘Great 18’; it is thus reasonable to associate the
work with Scheibe’s attack on Bach’s compositional styles made in 1737.
Such assumption may seem well-founded when we read Mizler's following remarks
made in 1740:
The author has here given new proof that in this field of composition
he is more practiced and more fortunate than many others. No one will surpass
him in it, and few will be able to imitate him. This work is a powerful
refutation of those who have made bold to criticize the composition of
the Honorable Court Composer. (NBR, 333).
The fact that it was the longest and most problematic of all printed works
that appeared during his lifetime suggests Bach’s great effort and commitment
towards it. As Gregory Butler demonstrates convincingly, the engraving
of the work was initially pulled in Leipzig at Johann Gottfried Krügner’s
workshop, but then the project was transferred to Nurenberg where Balthasar
Schmid took it on to finish; Butler relates Krügner’s abandonment
of the project with Bach’s change of mind as to the scope of the work,
which was much expanded during the engraving process. For the fascinating
sequences of Bach’s planning, engraving process and corrections, the interested readers should
consult Butler’s excellent monograph, Bach’s Clavier-Übung III:
The Making of a Print (Duke Univ. Press, 1990).
As regards Bach’s manuscripts, there survives no autograph of the work.
The Stichvorlage (exemplar for the printer) is reported to have
been possessed by C. P. E. Bach, but this was lost as well. All the surviving
manuscript copies apparently derived from the printed edition of which
only twenty of them survive today. Except two copies, all the surviving
copies of the original edition contain corrections, which Manfred Tessmer,
the editor of Neue Bach Ausgabe, distinguishes in three stages.
Together with the two that do not contain the corrections (as they were
proof copies produced at an intermediate stage of engraving), careful analysis
reveals an interesting history of the work’s process of development and
perfection by the composer.
The facsimile edition reviewed here is probably the only one that is
available today. There are other editions published in 1980–90s, such as
Edition Peters (1984) and Brescia (1985), but these were not made available
for my review and I cannot therefore comment at present.
|The Fuzeau edition is a reproduction
of the copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. This copy belonged
to Johann Jacob Pflaum, organist at St Peter’s, Heidelburg, which gives the date
‘25 May 1752’. It contains Bach’s corrections of Stage II and III. This
facsimile edition is designed for practical use; it gives perfectly legible
text. Using thick, high-quality paper and strong but flexible binding,
it sits well on the music stand on any music stand (see the picture on
the right). It also includes a very brief introduction in French, English
and German, covering some of the historical background of this work and
the liturgy in Leipzig, as well as all the chorale tunes with the text
in three languages.
Musicologists may find its clear and high-contrast, single-colour ink
reproduction slightly problematic, as it does not help to distinguish either
corrections on the plates or Bach’s later corrections from the printed
Fuzeau edition on the organ at St. George’s, Belfast
Published on-line on 6 June 2000