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Early Music

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Johann Ludwig KREBS (1713-1780)
Chorale Preludes; ‘O Ewigheit du Donnerwort ; Herrich habe missgehandelt; Wo sol lich flichen hin; Heut triumphiret Gottes Sohn; Wir glaudben all an einem Gott; Jesu, meine Freude; Praeludium and Charale on ‘Wer nur der lieben Gott lasst walten; Praeludium and Chorale on ‘Auf supra Auf meinen lieben Gott’ (from Clavierübung)
Praeludium in C minor; Fuga in C minor; in G minor, in Eb major, in F major; Trio in F; Trio in C minor, Trio in E minor; Fantasia in G and Fantasia sopra ‘Herr Jesu Christ dich zu uns wend’.
John Kitchen playing the organ of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich
Recorded September 2001
Complete Organ Works Volume 6
PRIORY PRCD 739 [72.33]



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The booklet cover of this the sixth and last CD in the series of Krebs organ music has a picture of the double manual organ complete with its approximately 32 stops at the Schlosskirche in Altenburg Castle. The same picture is used for Volume three of this series (PRCD 736). The reason for the organ being so prominent is that this was the instrument, although not featured in this series, which Krebs played and before him his teacher J.S. Bach (in 1739) when he was appointed to the court of Prince Gotha-Altenburg in 1755. The organ is still in use though only after considerable restoration work. Its design and specification give us a clue as to which modern instruments might suit Krebs’ own works. This series of CDs has moved around Europe in an attempt to find them.

John Kitchen who has performed and recorded all eight hours or so of Krebs’ works and who writes the very clear and readable booklet notes tells us that the Collins organ at St.Peter Mancroft "owes much to the north German tradition". He then gives us the specification of this three manual organ followed usefully by the registration used for each piece on the disc. I only wish that this were common practice. There is no 32 foot which would have been very much in character but there is a tremulant which, mercifully, is not used.

Krebs was a favourite pupil of J.S., who described him as having "distinguished himself in the art of music". Only fleetingly in this volume do we see quite what J.S. saw in him. I’m sorry to have to admit that the other five volumes have not come my way nevertheless let’s start with the best pieces.

Amongst these I would place the Praeludium and Fuga in C minor which runs to over 12 minutes. The fugue is a double fugue i.e., with two subjects which triumphantly join together in the closing passage. Krebs’ contrapuntal skill is nowhere better displayed than here. The disc includes three other short fugues at the end which in consequence seem almost to be like student exercises. Equally fine is a Trio in E minor in three linked movements each of which is separately tracked. The central allegro recalls Bach’s 1st Organ trio which was presumably a model. Another trio on this disc is in just a single movement; another consists of two Andantes.

The disc includes various Chorale preludes including a fine one on ‘Jesu mein Freude’ and some pieces from the ‘Clavierübung’, Krebs’ only publication of 1752-3. These consist of a selection of chorales in manuals-only arrangements; almost certainly intended for liturgical use. Each consists of three sections, an opening Praeludium which sets the mood and hints at the chorale melody; a central movement in which a statement of that melody is accompanied by manual figuration; and a final ‘choral alio modo’. Again each is separately tracked. The disc offers two examples although neither of these modest pieces runs to more than three minutes in all. There is also a short free Fantasia which stands alone and a Fantasia on a Chorale melody ‘Heut triumphiret Gottes sohn’ which is so out of character in the eccentricity of its melodic writing that it is probably by C.P.E. Bach.

I have to end by saying that this disc is probably only for organ buffs and/or organists who are completists. Nevertheless it is interesting to see how J.S. Bach’s mantle was carried on well into the time of Mozart.

Recording and general presentation of the disc is exemplary and John Kitchen is an ideal and expert advocate of this little known repertoire.
Gary Higginson

 



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