Programm commentary by Montserrat Torrent

For all lovers of organ music, it will be stimulating and instructive to listen to the works included in this album; both because of the music itself, and because of Joan Segui Mercadal's exemplary execution. The works on the album illustrate how the great composers, and specifically J. S. Bach, have been inspired by their predecessors and have learned a lot from their music.

 

The instrument that was used in this recording is the Metzler organ at the Monastery of Poblet (Tarragona, Spain), which was built in the year 2012. It is an ideal instrument for German and French Baroque music. Furthermore, the acoustics and atmosphere of the monastery’s church are unique, perfect for this music, and allow Joan Seguí's personality to stand out completely.

 

I cannot help but comment on the insightful structuring of the works in this recording. The Prelude in E flat major (BWV 552) gives way to a parade of composers revered, studied, and transcribed by Bach, followed by a choral and closed with the stonishing Fugue in E flat major, surely one of the best-conceived works of the composer of Leipzig.

 

Both in the prelude and the fugue can be found the characteristics of Bach's late style, as well as a very elaborate counterpoint and the pomposity of the French opening, with strongly dotted rhythms combined with a splendid five-voice harmony.

 

In the Prelude, Bach uses three very different styles: a French opening (pompous and elegant), a fugato counterpoint (academic but fresh), and a gallant style (youthful and carefree). In the fugue, the number 3 is also very present and symbologies the Holy Trinity.

 

Nicolas de Grigny was one of the most refined composers of the French Baroque era. He manifests himself as an accomplished harmonist and melodist with fine and sharp sensitivity. He is, without any doubts, one of the most expressive polyphonists of the seventeenth century. A very young Bach transcribed Grigny's Livre d'Orgue in 1713 (which includes the Hymne sur le Veni Creator). Unfortunately, the Livre d'Orgue is the only work by Grigny that has survived until our days.

 

In the Récit de Cromorne, exquisite ornamentations reflect Grigny's melodic taste. However, in the Dialogue sur les Grands Jeux harmony takes center stage, with well-differentiated parts and without losing the genuinely French character at any time.

 

Bach's admiration for Dietrich Buxtehude led a 20 years old Johann Sebastian to walk around 400 kilometers. He wanted to attend the famous evening concerts at the Marienkirche in Lübeck and meet its organist, praised at that time as one of the best composers in the world. Buxtehude's music had to be part of this album.

 

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern presents the melody of the chorale very clearly, first in the tenor voice and then in the treble voice. But it soon becomes a choral fantasy in which the theme is treated in very different ways until it is almost indiscernible.

 

By the time Bach visited Lübeck, Nicolaus Bruhns had passed away 8 years ago. He was 31, but despite his premature death, Bruhns had become Buxtehude's most gifted student and, although it is not known when Bach got to know his music, Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emmanuel wrote that Bruhns was one of the most admired musicians by his parent.

 

In general, Bruhns structures his music as rhetorical discourse, with very differentiated and contrasting parts. Each part has an evident communicative function. Thus, his musical language becomes much closer to the word and the music feels full of coherence.

 

Vivaldi's Concerto in A minor RV522 is without doubt Bach's best-known transcription for organ. Transcribing works by the most prolific composer of that time in Venice left an indisputable mark on Bach's music.

 

The Lutheran musical tradition is also one of the central elements in Bach's music and the works around the Lutheran hymns are a crucial part of his work, both instrumental and (especially) vocal. An Wasserflüssen Babylon is one of Bach's most refined chorales, perfectly combining the style of a French récit with the typical German chorale prelude.

 

In the Fugue in E flat major, we can find again similar characteristics as in its corresponding prelude. The number 3 is in the center of the work: three sections of approximately equal length, three themes, three styles, three different bar indications, etc... that build a monumental and solid work.

 

The first section applies to the Father, written in "Stile Antico"; the second section corresponds to the Son, written without a pedal and more human; and the third section refers to the Holy Spirit, in which the section's theme appears over the main fugue theme, superimposed and breaking the hierarchy of the compass, in a way that illustrates the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Credits

Tonmeister: Gerard Font


Assistants: Josep Aymí, Llorenç Gómez, Adrià Martínez


Organ: Metzler Orgelbau Op. 650


Assistance and organ tuning: Óscar Laguna


Grafic concept: Marta Esteban


Special thanks: Monestir de Poblet, Catalunya Música, Palau de la Música, Ficta, Fra Josep Antoni Peramos, P. Octavi Vilà i Mayo, Mercedes Conde, Aurèlia Pessarrodona i Pep Gorgori

 

Recorded on 18th and 19th September 2019  at Poblet Monastery, Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain.