This is acclaimed organist and recording artist Alessandro Licata performing Bach's Passacaglia and thema fugatum (Fugue) in c minor on the great mechanical (tracker) 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 legato touch with repeated notes held at exactly half their written value is employed throughout. One notices substitution used
in the hands and 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. Mr. Licata conducts a clinic here on how to perform Bach in a beautiful legato style 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.
We offer Mr. Licata
our compliments and sincerest thanks for making this thrilling, masterful, and instructive video recording and posting it on Vimeo for public viewing.