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 Joan Segui Mercadal's exemplary execution. The pieces on the album illustrate how great composers, particularly J.S. Bach, have been inspired by their predecessors and have learned from their music.
The instrument used in this recording is the Metzler organ at the Monastery of Poblet (Tarragona, Spain), built in 2012. It is ideal for German and French Baroque music, and the acoustics and atmosphere of the monastery's church are unique and perfect for this music, allowing Joan Seguí's personality to shine.
The insightful structuring of the works in this recording deserves mention. 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 astonishing Fugue in E-flat major, surely one of the best-conceived works of the composer of Leipzig.
In both the Prelude and the Fugue, one can find the characteristics of Bach's late style, as well as elaborate counterpoint and the pomposity of the French opening, with strongly dotted rhythms combined with a splendid five-voice harmony. The Prelude employs 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 symbolizes the Holy Trinity.
Nicolas de Grigny was one of the most refined composers of the French Baroque era, an accomplished harmonist and melodist with fine and sharp sensitivity. He is undoubtedly 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 surviving work by Grigny.
In the Récit de Cromorne, exquisite ornamentations reflect Grigny's melodic taste, while in the Dialogue sur les Grands Jeux, harmony takes center stage with well-differentiated parts, without losing the genuinely French character at any time.
Bach's admiration for Dietrich Buxtehude led him, at 20 years old, to walk around 400 kilometers to attend the famous evening concerts at the Marienkirche in Lübeck and meet its organist, who was 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 eight years earlier. He was 31, but despite his premature death, Bruhns had become Buxtehude's most gifted student. Although it is not known when Bach got to know his music, Bach's son Carl Philipp Emmanuel wrote that Bruhns was one of his father's most admired musicians.
In general, Bruhns structures his music as rhetorical discourse, with very differentiated and contrasting parts, each with 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 a doubt Bach's best-known transcription for organ, leaving an indisputable mark on his 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 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 again find similar characteristics as in its corresponding prelude. The number 3 is at 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.
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.