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Franz Liszt: Organ Works.
Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H
Variations on "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen"
Fantasia and Fugue "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam"
When Liszt was asked by Ferdinand Breuning to
compose a piece for organ, he had already made piano arrangements of several
scenes from Meyerbeer’s opera Le Prophète, which was first staged in 1849.
Having seen the opera in Dresden in 1850, Liszt started working on themes
from Le Prophète with the intention of creating an organ work. The result
was the Fantasia and Fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam”, based on a chorale
melody from Meyerbeer’s opera and completed in 1852. A work of extraordinary
proportions and harmonic complexity, it consists of a prelude, an adagio
and a fugue. A final, revised version of the Fantasia and Fugue was completed
The same year, Alexander Winterberger commissioned an organ work from Liszt
in connection with the inauguration of the new organ in the Merseburg Cathedral,
which was to be the largest organ in Germany. However, Liszt did not manage
to complete the planned Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H in time for the inauguration
ceremony on September 26. As a replacement, the revised version of the Fantasia
and Fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” was given its premiere performance.
The Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H was first performed on the Merseburg organ
in May 1856. The performer on both occasions was Alexander Winterberger.
The main inspiration for the Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen”
was the first vocal movement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata BWV 12,
which Bach himself later recycled as the Crucifixus section of his Mass
in B minor. The first version of Liszt’s work was a piano prelude composed
in 1859. In 1862, following the death of his daughter Blandine, Liszt extended
the work into a set of 30 variations based on the chromatically descending
bass line of Bach’s cantata movement. He also makes use of the chorale melody
that rounds off the cantata, “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” (“What God
does, that is well done”). In 1863, Liszt transcribed the work for organ.
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