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J.S. Bach: Orgelbüchlein

For four weeks in the year 1717, Johann Sebastian Bach was held in custody by his Patron, the Duke of Weimar.

It seems that the Duke could not understand why his composer would ever want to leave his service in favor of another, so he gave Bach a little time to think about it, albeit against his will.

During those weeks of November it seems that Bach began the Little Organ Book or “Orgelbüchlein” a project meant to instruct the young organist in the playing of chorales in various ways.

The Ensemble Mare Nostrum has recorded the full 45 chorales here, joined by soprano Céline Scheen.

Moving gradually though the liturgical year, it seems this pedagogical work was left unfinished.

A full set of 174 chorale preludes would have completed the work, but something urged Bach on to other things… probably his personally freedom.

The 45 chorales we are left with cover themes from Advent, the beginning of the church year, through the 24th Sunday after Trinity (sometime in November.)

Being a teaching work, all of the settings are no longer than the chorale melody itself with no introductions or codas.

Our quick pick this week comes from guitarist Sharon Isbin.  This crossover album features music from the Renaissance to a suite on the songs of Joan Baez.

She’s joined on the recording by Baez and violinist Mark O’Connor.

Music Heard On This Episode

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): BWV 632 — Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend
Ensemble Mare Nostrum — J.S. Bach: Orgelbüchlein (M.a. Recordings, 2008)
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album cover
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): BWV 632 — Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend
Ensemble Mare Nostrum — J.S. Bach: Orgelbüchlein (M.a. Recordings, 2008)
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album cover
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): BWV 630 — Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn
Céline Scheer, s.; Ensemble Mare Nostrum — J.S. Bach: Orgelbüchlein (M.a. Recordings, 2008)
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album cover
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): BWV 608 — In dulci jubilo
Ensemble Mare Nostrum — J.S. Bach: Orgelbüchlein (M.a. Recordings, 2008)
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album cover
Mark O'Connor (b. 1961): Strings & Threads Suite: Fair Dancer Reel
Sharon Isbin, gt. — Journey to the New World (Sony Classics, 2009)
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album cover
Traditional arr. Carlos Barbosa-Lima: Wayfaring Stranger
Joan Baez, vocals; Sharon Isbin, gt. — Journey to the New World (Sony Classics, 2009)
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album cover
David Wood

Originally from Leavenworth, Kansas, David Wood moved to Bloomington in 2005. He received his Bachelor of Music from Kansas State University, and his Master of Music from the University of North Texas. He studied ensemble direction at the Jacobs School of Music's Early Music Institute and joined WFIU in 2006 as an announcer. In 2008 he became WFIU's Music Director and also served as Art Bureau Chief from 2008-2013. David’s interests include Irish music and language (particularly traditional singing), music and religion, running, the outdoors, and, of course, classical music!

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  • susan sholtes

    would like to know if ensemble, mare nostrum performs live and where?

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