Johann Sebastian Bach

Pastorale for organ in F major, BWV 590 (BC J81)

    Description by Michael Jameson

    Very little is known of the precise origins of this Bach organ work in the key of F major, BWV 590, which is usually known as the "Pastorale" in F, and sometimes Pastorella in some sources. It comprises of four sections, and is thought by most scholars to have been written for performance during the Christmas services held at the main Leipzig churches with which Bach was closely associated. The work was therefore written presumably around the year 1720. No autograph copy has survived, nor is there any plausible indication of how the work might have fitted into the Christmas liturgy, though it is now regarded as definitely Bach's work, having been long-disputed due to lack of clearly attributable material.

    Without question, however, the emergence of certain galant-style features places the Pastorale late in Bach's career. The most interesting attribute is the use (in each of the first two sections) of "Piffero" or "piping" style, based on the drone bass line and skirling bagpipe melodies widely encountered in Italian Christmas folk music. Even in the late twentieth century, the ancient traditions of bagpipe-playing shepherds processing through small towns have been upheld at Christmas, the idea being that the ritual recalls the shepherds' journey to Bethlehem. Traditional Piffero music usually offers two melodies in canon, normally heard against a drone bass line and entirely based on tonic, subdominant, and dominant harmonies. Interestingly, there are also examples of Piffero technique to be found in the Christmas Oratorio, notably in the Sinfonia preceding Part II, and also in a small number of other Bach works.

    The third movement is far more sophisticated and its aria-like theme has a special symbolism. The three-flat key signature and triple meter were often used to represent angels, and the assumption is that here Bach intended to depict the appearance of the angels to the shepherds as recorded in Luke's gospel (2:8-15). The concluding section of the work is a gigue in fugal form, the melody of which has been traced by Christoph Wolff to an early Medieval hymn-tune "Resonet in laudibus," itself often sung at Christmas to portray the shepherds' rejoicing upon finding the infant Jesus.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Pastorale
    2. Allemande
    3. Aria
    4. Giga

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Chromart Classics / TYX Art TXA 15069
    2016 Onclassical OC 150B
    2015 Oehms Classics OC 1827
    2015 Hänssler Classic 980410000000
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95005BR
    2015 Challenge Classics CC 72263
    2015 Coro COR 16132
    2015 ZYX Classics CLA 101892
    2015 BIS BIS 2111
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002132
    2014 Rondeau / Rondeau Productions ROP 6037
    2013 ABC Classics ABC 4765171
    2013 TYX Art TXA 13027
    2012 Raven / Raven Records OAR 937
    2012 Rondeau ROP 606566
    2012 Avie AV 2271
    2012 Gall (formerly Gallo) CD 1376
    2011 Oehms Classics OC 414
    2011 Erato 2564676018
    2011 Raven Records OAR 929
    2011 Harmonia Mundi HMX 292819
    2011 Divox CDX252272
    2011 ZYX / ZYX Classical / ZYX Music CLA 101152
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2010 Dorian 92104
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4778628
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 477 862-8
    2010 Raven 950
    2010 ZYX Classics 1023
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Ricercar 289
    2009 Centaur Records 3015
    2009 50119152
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Carus 83419
    2008 Chandos 0510
    2008 Regent 258
    2008 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4694202
    2008 Raven 904
    2008 Farao / Farao Classics F 100205
    2007 Musical Concepts 191
    2007 BIS 1527/28
    2007 Analekta 24022-43
    2007 Priory Records 884
    2007 HDC 40303
    2007 Erato 4699028
    2007 Challenge Records 72234
    2007 Carus 83233
    2006 Brilliant 93102
    2006 Brilliant 99697
    2006 Analekta 3091
    2006 Audite 92565
    2006 Raven 875
    2006 Arsis 405
    2006 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 41426
    2006 Novalis 150180
    2006 Gallo 900
    2006 Harmonia Mundi 2978199
    2006 Delphian DCD 34032
    2006 Aeolus Music 10241
    2005 Challenge Records 72146
    2005 Interdisc Trading 97440
    2005 DG Deutsche Grammophon 477 5759GOM2
    2005 DG Deutsche Grammophon 000506802
    2005 Azica Records 1228
    2004 Tall Poppies 166
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 585630
    2004 DG Archiv 000185602
    2004 High Definition Classics 047
    2004 Summit Records 373
    2004 Priory Records 753
    2004 Telarc Distribution SACD 63590
    2003 ATMA Classique 22110
    2003 Essential Classics / St. Clair 31012
    2003 Art & Music 1539/58
    2003 Haenssler 98424
    2002 Sony Classical 89955
    2002 Hyperion 44121/36
    2001 Pioneer 11544
    2000 Arts Music 47569
    2000 Haenssler 92096
    2000 DG Archiv 463712
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 73878
    2000 Aca Digital 20067
    1999 Raven 440
    1999 Teldec 25705
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 295717
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 290772
    1999 Teldec 3984-25713-2
    1999 Valois 4425
    1999 Berlin Classics 0093642
    1999 DG Archiv 419904
    1999 Gothic Records 49104
    1998 Priory Records 618
    1997 Hyperion 67211/2
    1997 Triton 53034
    1996 Teldec 97901
    1996 DG Archiv 447292
    1996 Naxos 504014
    1996 Cedille Records 12
    1995 London 444410
    1995 Nimbus 5280
    1995 Raven 250
    1995 ZYX Music 4184
    1995 Novalis 150130
    1995 Gallo 720
    1994 Capriccio Records 10305
    1994 Supraphon 112892131
    1994 BIS 343/344
    1994 Erato 96358
    1994 Erato 96745
    1994 Naxos 560001
    1993 EMI Music Distribution 65028
    1993 Naxos 550102
    1993 Berlin Classics 0020082
    1993 FSM Adagio 97726
    1993 Dorian 90152
    1993 Titanic 164
    1992 Novalis 150052
    1991 Harmonia Mundi 190717
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 46551
    1989 DG Deutsche Grammophon 427668
    Priory Records 329
    Brilliant 93102-VOL6
    Brilliant 99706
    Brilliant 93102/145
    Musica Rediviva MRCD009
    Analekta 4022
    Naxos 550184
    Vox 8019
    ASV 6250
    Musica Viva 1030
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 471734
    Excelsior Recordings 055
    Interdisc Trading 97440/4
    DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 7202
    CPO 999654
    EMI Classics 697164
    Brilliant 99706/7
    Rene Gailly 87025
    Ligia 104081
    EMI Music Distribution
    DG Archiv 463718
    Philips 420860
    Disques Pierre Verany 789104
    Supraphon 111289
    Erato 45257
    DG Archiv 413638
    BlueMusicGroup.com
    Bayard S396232
    Hyperion 44125
    La Bottega Discantica 014
    Meridian Records 84326
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 4776210
    Munich Records 30043
    Conch Classics 4