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On-line Book Review

YO TOMITA

FRONT COVER
OVERVIEW
Dimension: 24.5 x 18.1 x 4.8 cm
TITLE Handbuch Orgelmusik. Komponisten - Werke - Interpretation, hrsg. von Rudolf Faber und Philip Hartmann.
PUBL. DETAILS Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag /Stuttgart und Weimar: Verlag J. B. Metzler, 2002. xv+712p; Hardback. Euro 64,90.
ISBN 3-7618-2003-8 (Bärenreiter); 3-476-01877-6 (Metzler)
TO ORDER Bärenreiter-Verlag, Heinrich-Schütz-Allee 35, D-34131 Kassel, Germany.
SUMMARY
DESCRIPTION An easy-to-use comprehensive guide on the organ music from the 15th century to the present day; contribution by 20 authors. Bach's works are discussed on pp. 55-99.
WORKS COVERED BWV 525-560, 562-66, 568-70, 572, 574-5, 578-9, 582, 588-90, 592-6, 601, 608, 615, 625, 633-4, 637, 639, [645-50], 651, 653-4, 660, 668-80, 686, 688, 696-9, 701, 703-4, 715, 718, 722, 726, 729, 732-3, 736, 738-9, 765-70, 802-5, 1090-1120; Anh.205/II 45. 
READERSHIP Organists and scholars, esp. student organists
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION Encyclopaedic coverage of 418 composers of organ music and their works

Today we remember Bach primarily as the composer of countless masterpieces. Many people of his time remembered him rather differently; he was an awesome virtuoso organist. In the long and proud tradition of the German school of organ playing, Bach became a legendary figure, as his organ works were cherished by many generations of organists and were regarded among the finest examples of art that demonstrate both the skill of the performers and the power of instrument, the organ.
While his works became the daily bread for many organists, composers wrote pieces to pay homage to Bach’s legacy. The fugues featuring the B-A-C-H motif are perhaps the best examples.
 
Contents in brief 
Vorwort
Die Autorinnen und Autoren
Abkürzungen
I. Orgelmusik des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts
  Böhmen, Deutschland, England, Frankreich, Italien, Niederlande, Portugal, Spanien
II. Orgelmusik des 19. bis 20. Jahrhunderts
  Baltische Staaten, Belgien, Deutschland, Frankreich, Großbritannien, GUS, Italien, Kanada, Niederlande, Österreich, Polen, Rumänien, Schweiz, Skandinavische Länder, Tschechien, Ungarn, USA
III. Neue Orgelmusik nach 1960
Register
comprehensive, yet surprisingly easy to use

This thick book is an encyclopaedia of organ composers and their major works for this instrument: it features 418 composers who lived from the 15th century to the present day. As you can see in the abridged table of contents shown on the left, the entries are arranged systematically according to the period and region. Each section has separate introduction, discussing the historical background and the main feature of the organ of the period and its construction (incl. list of stops), followed by a select list of bibliography, all of which is clearly laid out and discussed concisely.

Twenty authors took part in this volume; the section of J. S. Bach (pp. 55-99) was written by Michael Kube, the author who wrote the section of chorale-based organ music in the Bach-Handbuch (1999), pp. 536-612. Considering the amount of information already widely available elsewhere, it is not surprising to learn how small it is that this section occupies in this book. The introduction for Bach’s organ music takes up less than a page (excluding the list of editions) in which Kube discusses just enough biographical information about who Bach is, e.g. who influenced and taught Bach, what posts he held and where, and so on. If you need more in-depth information, you will surely need to look up other books such as Bach-Handbuch or Peter Williams’ monograph, Johann Sebastian Bachs Orgelwerke (Mainz: Schott, 1996f).

Bach’s works are discussed briefly in BWV order, starting with Organ Trio (BWV 525). Each commentary begins with brief historical background, followed by some salient structural and stylistic features of each composition. There is one unique feature in this book that may be very handy for student organists who are looking for what to study next: it gives the grade for technical difficulty (1=very easy to 6=extremely difficult) and the approximate duration of each piece. The length and nature of the commentary also reflect this category of readership. For this reason, Bach scholars may find the level of discussion somewhat wanting. But it is the wide coverage of other composers from whom Bach received influence as well as those that he influenced that is most attractive. For the literature of organ music in general, I have not yet seen a book that is equally easy to use as this book.

One of the features lacking from this present edition is the index of keywords. At the back there is an index of composers (Register) and for the major composer there is a list of his works; but this does not give you who wrote a piece on the theme of Bach, for example.

Published online on 31 May 2002

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