One Minute World Arts- Orgelbüchlein: Bach’s Organ Music Made Complete by 21st-Century Talents

Among all the magnificent works from the great maestro Johann Sebastian Bach, organ music has been widely regarded as his most representative. “Orgelbüchlein”, German for “Little Organ Book”, is an unfinished collection of chorale preludes composed by Bach for organ, often used as a manual for learners to practice basic organ techniques nowadays. Intriguingly, academic evidence indicates that Bach intended to compose a total of 164 pieces in this collection according to his original plan, but ended up creating only 46, leaving the rest untouched for reasons unknown. Those untouched 118 pieces have long been a mysterious puzzle for musicians studying Bach’s music – until years ago the organist William Whitehead decided to initiate a challenging project, by collaborating with 118 contemporary composers, to “terminate the suspension” with modern perspectives.


It has taken Whitehead about 15 years to complete the project. It all started when, one day, Whitehead was listening to an “Orgelbüchlein”-style chorale prelude on an English carol written by his own student, which made him feel greatly inspired and led him to get the “cream” of European composers to put their minds to the task of completing Bach’s unfinished work. Whitehead began to call for participations and collaborations when he was teaching at Trinity College London; after getting 118 composers on board, he then worked hard to organize thousands of notes contributed by these talents, all of which are separated into themed volumes. For him, the purpose of the project was never trying to replicate Bach’s style; rather, it was to resonate with Bach’s creative energy, making his incomplete “Orgelbüchlein” complete. Meanwhile, Roderick Williams, one of the contributing composers, has also expressed his view on the project: “…I chose a different tack; comparing our digital 21st century to Bach’s age suggested a response from me that reflects some of today’s values.” The premiere of the “completed” Orgelbüchlein, brought together by Whitehead, took place in several London venues over the weekend of September 23-5, and its full sheet music is published by Edition Peters.




音樂之父 巴赫(Johann Sebastian Bach)為後世留下眾多膾炙人口的經典作品;其中,管風琴音樂堪稱是他的扛鼎之作。在巴赫為教堂譜寫的上百首管風琴聖詠前奏曲中,《管風琴小曲集》(Orgelbüchlein)可說是今日管風琴手的入門必修,其重要性可見一斑。有意思的是,這套譜集同時也是古典樂界長久以來一道耐人尋味之謎:根據文獻顯示,巴赫原本預計為《管風琴小曲集》創作164首作品,但最後卻只完成了46首,所餘118首因不明原因並未問世;直到近年來管風琴家威廉.懷特黑德(William Whitehead)突發奇想,策動巴赫《管風琴小曲集》的補遺計畫,與118位現代音樂家合作,用當代視角增補大師昔日沒能完工的作品,此一懸案才算出現新的轉折。


懷特黑德的補遺計畫歷時約15年完成;起因是他曾於某日聽到自己的學生在一首英文聖歌前,自行增創一段近似《管風琴小曲集》風格的聖詠前奏曲,內心有感而發,因而決定展開行動。起初,他在當時任教的倫敦三一學院(Trinity College London)進行號召,陸續獲得各方回應,其後並從118位共襄盛舉之人所譜寫的各式樂音裡,梳理彼此間相異的美學,再依照主題分門別類。懷特黑德表示,該計畫的初衷,並非想要精準複製巴赫的樂風,而是藉由各形各色的當代曲式,來與音樂之父的未竟之業遙相唱和。勉力參與增補計畫的音樂家羅德利克.威廉斯(Roderick Williams)也指出:「我選擇了一條不同的取徑;從我個人的角度來看,把21世紀數位時代的曲風與巴赫時期的古典樂風並置,無疑更能凸顯當今的某些價值觀。」這套由懷特黑德集結眾人之力所完成的作品,今年9月在英國倫敦舉行了首演,其樂譜則由彼得斯出版社(Edition Peters)發行。



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