Franz Xaver Anton Murschhauser was a Munich organist, a student of J.C. Kerll active around the turn of the seventeenth century to the eighteenth; one of his organ treatises is known to have been in Bach's library and occasioned a German critical spat that is entertainingly recounted in the otherwise rather dense booklet notes to this disc. The rather mysteriously titled Prototypon Longo-Breve Organicum is less intimdatingly metaphysical than it sounds; it's not essential for the general listener, but those immersed in Bach's world will get something out of it. The Prototypon was a publication intended for parish organists, who would, if they were capable of it, improvise the music they played at services; Murschhauser offers preludes (called "preambulum") and fugues, interspersed with toccatas and little flourishes called finales. All are short; the Fuga brevissima tertii toni, track 15, is only 25 seconds long. They are, in short, bits of music that organists could play during church services, and they offer some insight into the improvisatory aspects of the contexts in which the young Bach worked as a church musician. Bach developed all of the structures used here into larger, abstract edifices, and most of Murschhauser's pieces seem to doodle around a single idea in a way Bach never would. The ordering of the set is intriguing. Murschhauser claims to be writing sets of pieces in the first, second, third, seventh, eighth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth modes of traditional modal theory -- which conveniently eliminates the ones, such as the Lydian mode, that are hardest to fit into the rapidly emerging system of major and minor keys. The concept speaks to the academicism of the music, which at the same time will interest the serious Bachian and put off the casual listener. The organ used, a 1738 instrument from the southern German city of Beilstein, is a splendid instrument best displayed in the big Toccata pro pedali undecimi toni, track 33; keyboardist Léon Berben, though better known as a harpsichordist, seems conversant with the issues in the music.
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