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Gail Archer

gail archerThe Organ Chorale Preludes from the Leipzig Autograph, BWV 651-668, or "Great 18" by Johann Sebastian Bach are virtuosic settings of Lutheran chorale melodies that Bach knew from his earliest years. While the composer developed the final versions of the pieces in Leipzig between 1739-1742 and again from 1746-1747, the original chorale preludes were composed much earlier at Weimar, where Bach served as organist and chamber musician from 1708-1717. The chapel of Duke Wilhelm Ernst and his nephew, the co-regent, Duke Ernst August, was led by Johann Samuel Drese and his son Johann Wilhelm Drese. It is clear from the high salary Bach received when he was hired, and the raise to 200 florins three years later, that Bach was respected and valued by his employer. The court chapel of the Wilhelmsberg, built in 1658, boasted a fine organ constructed that same year by the distinguished organ builder Ludwig Compenius of Erfurt. The organ was restored and enlarged just before Bach’s arrival at court by Johann Conrad Weishaupt; a later record of 1737 states that the organ had 24 stops on two manuals with pedals. Bach’s Obituary tells us that, "the pleasure His Grace [ Duke Ernst August ] took in his playing fired him with the desire to try every possible artistry in his treatment of the organ," and that the vast majority of the works for organ were composed at Weimar.

As an artist, I have spent this year performing the works of Mendelssohn and his successors, composers profoundly moved by their rediscovery of the vocal and instrumental music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The great hymns were their source materials and are the common currency among organists for so many centuries. As a young girl, I sang these tunes at church with my family, and they are as much a part of my cultural heritage as any heirloom that I might receive from my parents or grandparents. In celebration of the 325th anniversary of the Bach’s birth in Eisenach, it is a joy to share these extraordinary improvisations upon the old German hymns. Short Text:

"The Transcendent Genius", so named after the celebration concert series Gail performs through 2010 in honor of Bach’s 325th, has been beautifully captured on the Paul Fritts Organ at Vassar College. Being hailed as one of the great organists of our time, Ms. Archer brings her mastery to us by transcending the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach through her interpritation. The Great Eighteen represent some of the most cherished chorale melodies in musical time, and it is through Gail’s performance we realize just how deep they touch our soul. Join in our celebration with Gail and order your copy today.

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