You may recall from previous posts that I’m back to practicing Bach—the so-called German Organ Mass, also called the Clavierübung, Part III. According to Wikipedia, “It is considered Bach’s most significant and extensive work for organ, containing some of his musically most complex and technically most demanding compositions for that instrument.”
You know me—I never take the easy way out!
Carl Crosier and I actually presented a Clavierübung III concert almost forty years ago (gasp!) on March 11, 1979 where he and I divided up the collection — he played about half of them and I played the other half. In the collection, there are both large and small settings of the parts of the Mass, and we decided not to perform the entire collection because it would take too long with the addition of the sung chorales. So we picked some large and some small settings. I played the opening Prelude in E-flat, and he played the closing Fugue in E-flat, the so-called “St. Anne” because of its close resemblance to the hymn tune “O God our help in ages past.”
Now that Carl is in the heavenly choir, though, I have decided to play all the large settings, meaning that I have to learn some of the pieces that he played in 1979. Wow! I am finding that he took on some of the most fiendishly difficult and impossible settings. In fact, I remember him saying to me back then that it was a good thing he was playing Jesus Christus Unser Heiland because it was too pianistic for me and my hands were too small! If you don’t know it, the piece is full of wide intervals, and there are leaps of tenths in almost every measure. You’re right, Carl, I’m finding it quite a nightmare!
In 1979 we made no provisions for recording the concert, so you can imagine how shocked we were when a package came in the mail from former Hawaii AGO member Jim Wallrabenstein some thirty years after the concert — and it was a recording of our concert which Jim had done surreptitiously and never told us about it! We did listen to it right after we received it and then I gave it to webmaster Bill Potter, and he posted it to the LCH website. You can hear the recording by clicking here.
Last weekend I listened to the entirety of the recordings, and I was both amused and amazed by my performance as a 28-year-old. I marveled at our note accuracy, but also surprised at the tempos which I now consider too fast and too stampeded! You see, I have slowed down in my old age, and my tendency is to not rely on flash and dash as I did in my younger days! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowed down and want to smell the roses!
Hey, did you know that many classical musicians cannot stand to hear their recordings (myself included?) I have to admit I have yet to listen to my recording of my 2013 Bach Great Eighteen concert — I am not quite ready to hear it yet! But apparently this is a common phenomenon; check out this link, in which Tom Service of The Guardian likened classical musicians’ listening to their own recordings as “existential torture!”
Oh, and if you want to mark your calendars, you can circle Reformation Sunday, October 30th as my Clavierübung concert. Yes! I have bitten the bullet and have set the date.