St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Christmas Music

Evening of organ music

Jean-Philippe Rameau. Fragments from Harpsichord Concerto No 2
(transcribed for organ by Benjamin Alard)

Johann Sebastian Bach. Chorale “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland”. Trio Sonata No 1 in E Flat Major

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Fugue in C Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach. Pastorale in F Major. Fantasia in C Minor. Toccata and Fugue in F Major

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Sonata No 4 in B Flat Major

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764) was a composer, harpsichordist and brilliant theoretician. He was born in an organist’s family. There is relatively little information to be found about his younger years. It is known that Rameau studied at a Jesuit school and, at the age of eighteen, at his father’s insistence he departed to Italy to complete his musical education. Upon his return, he served as the organist in Dijon, Clermont-Ferrand and Lyon, before settling in Paris from 1722 where he went on to composer spiritual and secular music.
As an outstanding performer and improviser and, gaining widespread fame thanks to his operas and harpsichord pieces, Rameau entered the ranks of court musician (from 1745), and shortly before his death he was elevated to the nobility.
Harpsichord music represents a significant part of Rameau’s work. His finest pieces stand out for their lofty inspiration, passion and the subtle combination of humour and melancholy. In addition to solo suites and the large number of other works, Rameau wrote eleven concerti for harpsichord and chamber ensemble.
The staggering talent of Rameau the composer, a man who could combine the decorative scale and the chamber-like refinement of the rococo, left a deep mark in the history of French music.

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710–1784) – the eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach – was an organist, improviser and composer. Wilhelm Friedemann, unlike his brother Carl Philipp Emanuel, became a successful organist.
In 1736, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach he received the post of organist at St Cecilia’s in Dresden. In 1746, hors-concours he was appointed the organist at the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle – a post his father had been given thirty years earlier, but which he had not accepted. Halle was a bleak bastion of piety – in sharp contrast to the splendid and easy life of Dresden. Suffocated by the trivial demands of his superiors, Wilhelm Friedemann resigned in 1764.
After his father’s death, he gave no more worry about his career. His untrusting and suspicious character drove away the people who admired his talent as an organist and virtuoso improviser.
Wilhelm Friedemann tried living in Halle (1764–1770), then in Brunswick (1770–1774) and, ultimately, in Berlin, where he gave private lessons. Here at public auction he was forced to sell some of the manuscripts he had inherited from his father. It was here that he died in terrible poverty.
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s finest works were written for piano and organ. On one hand, his music reflects the connection with the aural surroundings of his childhood – not just the music of his father, but of his predecessors too, and on the other it speaks of sensitivity – a new feature of the style of the age.


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) was the most famous composer and organist of the entire Bach family, which produced several generations of musicians in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. In his works, Bach generalised the achievements of music from several centuries. As a vividly patriotic artist, Bach combined the traditions of the protestant chorale with the traditions of the Austrian, Italian and French schools of music. The magnificent breadth, the severity even, and the deep wisdom of Bach’s organ works have been justly appraised by audiences for almost three centuries now.
Bach’s vast artistic legacy includes over one thousand works in various genres – vocal and symphonic, organ and instrumental.

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809–1847) was a German pianist, organist, conductor and composer. He was born in a Jewish family who had converted to Protestantism. The wonderful education he received in his younger years made him one of the most enlightened people of his time. He was conversant in many foreign languages, drew wonderfully well and was a passionate devotee of philosophy. A pupil of Zelter and Hennings, he also became one of the finest German pianists, and he began composing his own works at the age of twelve.
His frequent travels to Great Britain (from 1829 to 1847), France (1816, 1825, 1830) and Italy (1830) brought Mendelssohn international fame as a composer.
Having settled in Berlin, he initiated and performed Bach’s Matthäuspassion (1829). Mendelssohn subsequently took the post of Music Director in Düsseldorf (1833) and transformed Leipzig into one of the major centres of music in Germany, taking command of the Gewandhaus and establishing the Conservatoire. From 1844 he also became a leading light in the musical life of Berlin.
Mendelssohn’s music, which won acclaim following the triumph of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, impresses with its clarity, its naturalness of expression, the emotional quality of its melodies and the wonderful orchestration. Drawing his inspiration from the sources of romanticism, Mendelssohn was to varying degrees one of the first to discover Bach’s works for himself and for the public, performing his music throughout Germany as well as in London and Paris. This close and constant relationship with 18th century counterpoint did not divest him of his own musical language.


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