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Durham e-Theses
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Changing structures in German organ music from 1600 to the death of J. S. Bach

Hansell, David John Kenneth (1980) Changing structures in German organ music from 1600 to the death of J. S. Bach. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines the forms used by German organist-composers of the period 1600-1750. These can be divided into two broad categories, the toccata and the organ chorale. The former originated in the works of late sixteenth century composers and was transmitted to Northland South/ Central Germany by Sweelinck and Froberger respectively. Their one movement, sectional compositions, in which fugal and free, idiomatic keyboard writing alternated, was used throughout the seventeenth century, reaching its zenith in the flamboyant music of Dietrich Buxtehude. J. S. Bach was greatly influenced by this Northern school and his early compositions were in a similar style. However, his study of the Italian concerto made ritornello form a dominant feature of his vocabulary and in his preludes and fugues one can trace the gradual elimination of the more improvisatory elements of the Northern style and the evolution of a thematically unified prelude, tightly organised on ritornello lines, which is succeeded by a similarly strict fugue, the climax being generated by contrapuntal means, rather than the fusillade of bravura passage-work characteristic of the previous generation. Samuel Scheldt codified the basic methods of organ chorale composition early in the seventeenth century and his basic principles still applied when J. S. Bach published Clavierűbung III in 1759. Many composers made distinctive contributions to the chorale based repertoire, using a wide variety of technical devices in works often of imposing length. However, Bach again brought order to these diffuse styles, developing in the Orgelbuchlein highly concentrated settings, each dominated by one characteristic idea, and then dramatically expanding their scale without diluting the motivic intensity by combining the presentation of a cantus fermus with a ritornello structure, a radical new departure not found in the organ music of his predecessors and rarely developed by his contemporaries and successors.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1980
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 15:33

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