Music for Pentecost 12 — Sunday August 28, 2022

Trio Sonata No. 3 – Adagio e dolce (BWV 527) – J. S. Bach

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Among J. S. Bach’s most important compositions for the organ are the ebullient six Trio Sonatas, BWV 525-530. These pieces were perhaps conceived, and are certainly used, to build technique on an instrument that is played with both hands and feet. Written for the organ or pedal clavichord (a practice instrument for organists), these sonatas require the right and left hands to play independent melodic lines on separate keyboards, while the feet play the basso continuo. The organ sonatas are disarmingly attractive and immediately appealing to the listener, though they pose ferocious interpretive and technical demands for the player. A significant challenge of performing these works is one of sheer coordination: playing three lines of music on two keyboards and pedal with all four limbs. There isn’t much for the performer to cling on to; it’s a little like walking on eggshells.

This Sunday’s prelude in church is the middle movement from the third Trio Sonata (BWV 527), the Adagio (later indicated as Adagio e dolce). Although the Sonata as a whole is in the key of D minor, representing melancholy, devotion and solemnity, this movement is in its relative major key of F, played out as a peaceful, elegant, uncomplicated flute duet.

Gerald Harder