This is world class organist and acclaimed recording artist Alessandro Licata performing the Passacaglia and thema fugatum (Fugue) in c minor of J.S. Bach on the 1980 Formentelli mechanical action organ at Santa Galla Church in Rome, Italy. This music is believed to be a product of
Bach's Weimar years (1708-1717) during which a large part of his mature organ works are believed to have been written. It consists of 21 variations on a ground bass followed by a tremendous double fugue constructed upon the same. Probably no other organ work of Bach makes so many demands upon registration changes as this one. As the music progresses all of the instrument's available manuals and
a variety of stops and couplers are employed, and it finishes with great finality over the full power of the organ, exploiting to the fullest the downward sonority of the instrument.
In this recording one notes the seemingly effortless control and that legato touch in both hands and feet with repeated notes held at exactly half their written value is employed throughout.
Substitution is used in the hands but systematically avoided in the pedal. By means of the fine camera work the skillful use of subsidiary manuals and crossing of hands may be noted along with the refined coordination of hand registrations made without
undue pause on an instrument with no combination action and the way the right foot, when not being used, is parked on a projection above the pedalboard to stabilize the body for the playing of the next pedal note.
One notes also the steady but elastic tempo and how the Fugue is announced only by one hand to free the other hand to skillfully add or retire stops and
couplers on an organ built in historic style which lacks a combination action. The fact that every note was memorized and the eyes were looking down at the feet a good bit of the time is also of particular interest.
While this same time-honored legato approach to playing Bach which held sway for over a century-and-a-half runs contrary to discoveries made in the 1970's
relative to articulate touch and toes-only pedaling, it nevertheless, in this recording, brings out the dense texture of Bach's writing without any loss of clarity. Although some may argue that a never-ending legato deprives Bach's organ music of life,
Mr. Licata conducts a clinic here on how to perform Bach in this manner in a clear, thrilling way with nuanced tempos, substitution employed in the hands, and with liberal use of the heels on an early, 27-note (C1-d3), flat, non-radiating early-style pedalboard,
indicating that the use of the heels is not only possible on such a pedalboard but able to be freely employed.
offer Mr. Licata our compliments and sincerest thanks for making this instructive video recording and posting it on Vimeo for public viewing.