One of my earliest and continuing musical fascinations is organ music. It started when I was fourteen (14) years old, when a colleague of my father's gave me, as a Christmas gift, a vinyl LP record (Archiv 2565 002) of organ music by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). It was a very fortunate introduction to the great works of Bach, as the LP, produced in 1971, was by a great german organist, Helmut Walcha (1907-1991), playing on the Grand Organ of the St Laurens Church, Alkmaar and the organ in the Church of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune, Strasburg. With his magnificent and at the same time subtle playing, Walcha remains to this day my favorite Bach organ interpreter. That old LP, which I still have, is in fact a selection from the complete recording of Bach's organ works by Walcha. Many years later I bought the 12-CD set. It remains in print and is still available today. Among the pieces featured on the record is the Pastorale, BWV 590, one of my favorite not-so-known Bach works, and several of his famous chorale preludes, written on themes of lutheran hymns. Among them, one that I find very moving is Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639 (I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ - Κύριε, εκέκραξα προς Σέ) which Bach composed around 1713 and is part of the Orgelbüchlein collection of 46 chorale preludes.
I think that, in the right mood, it can bring tears to one's eyes. It was memorably used by film director Andrei Tarkovsky in his 1972 masterpiece Solaris. BWV 639 is one of the Bach chorales transcribed for the piano by Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924). Busoni's Bach transcriptions are among the most performed pieces in the transcription repertoire, and it has been recorded by many famous pianists. It is played here by Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950).
Since that Christmas, many years ago, I have been exploring the organ repertory and I have developed a liking for composers and pieces from the Baroque, Romantic, and modern eras. But Bach's works retain a special place in my heart.
(The score of Busoni's BWV 639 transcription pictured here was published by Breitkopf & Härtel and is in the public domain. The full PDF can be had here).