Johann Sebastian Bach

Trio Sonata for organ No. 1 in E flat major, BWV 525 (BC J1)

    Description by Blair Johnston

    Many of J.S. Bach's most beloved keyboard compositions were intended partly as instructional material. The six Trio Sonatas for Organ, BWV 525-530, may be such pieces; they are thought to have been incorporated into the lessons that Johann Sebastian gave to his son Wilhelm Friedemann. The six sonatas were composed close to the beginning of Bach's life in Leipzig. Unlike some of the others, which make use of genuine trio sonata music earlier composed for three players, the first of them, the Trio Sonata No. 1 in E flat major for organ, BWV 525, is apparently a wholly original work.

    The process of condensing the by-then venerable trio sonata medium into music for a single keyboard player -- with the three original voices assigned to two manuals and the pedals -- was not accomplished in a single bold step. Bach's Three-Part Inventions of the early 1720s draw heavily on trio sonata idioms, as do several other keyboard works (the B minor Prelude in the first volume of the Well-Tempered Clavier being a key example). And we must also remember that while living in Cöthen in the early 1720s Bach had condensed the trio sonata texture for two players (e.g. the Six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV 1014-1019). Still, BWV 525 is something striking and new: a full-fledged chamber sonata for a single player, and probably the first of the organ trio sonatas to be composed.

    Even so, there is very little else that is truly new about the music of BWV 525 -- the score might easily be played by two instruments and basso continuo, and very few listeners would be aware that it is in fact not an authentic trio sonata. The opening of the first movement is built by way of the normal upper-voices imitation, to which the bass voice adds "walking" eighth notes. The astute listener or player will certainly notice that the manner of the movement's active sixteenth notes owes as much to the Baroque concerto as to the Baroque sonata (as, indeed, does the late Italian Baroque three-movement format of BWV 525), but the fusion of sonata and concerto styles is something that we notice time and again throughout Bach's chamber sonatas.

    The C minor Adagio is in a true binary form whose rhythms occasionally make quasi-siciliano shapes. The Allegro finale jumps forth in 3/4 time; the movement again falls into two halves, and at the start of the second half Bach turns the main subject of the movement -- a series of leaping eighth notes and some consequent sixteenth note runs -- upside down.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro moderato
    2. Adagio
    3. Allegro

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Claves DO 1930
    2018 Decca
    2018 Accent ACC 24351
    2017 Rondeau / Rondeau Productions ROP 6132
    2016 Sony Classical 88875178262
    2016 Lawo Classics LWC 1087
    2016 Dynamic CDS 7739
    2016 Decca / London
    2016 Alpha ALPHA 237
    2016 Soundset SR 1076
    2016 Hänssler Classic HC 15052
    2016 Rondeau ROP 608586
    2016 Signum Classics SIGCD 800
    2016 Paschen Records PR 160032
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796018
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Ligia LIDI 0104274
    2015 Opus Arte OACD 9037D
    2015 Querstand VKJK 1426
    2015 Erato 0825646190423
    2015 Musica Omnia MO 0612
    2015 MSR Classics MS 1561
    2014 Brilliant Classics 94850BR
    2014 Hungaroton HCD 32735
    2014 Nimbus NI 2583
    2014 Brilliant Classics 94406
    2014 MDG
    2014 Stone Records 5060192780468
    2013 Archiv Produktion 002894791045AB55
    2013 Société Métropolitaine Du Disque SBL 2161
    2013 Antes Edition
    2012 Crocevia Di Suoni / Stradivarius CDS 006
    2011 Fuga Libera 572
    2011 Passacaille PAS 967
    2011 Coro COR 16095
    2011 Antes Edition / Zebralution
    2011 Erato 2564676018
    2011 Regent REGCD 307
    2010 Pipistrelle / Verdandi Music 0312
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
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