Aya Yoshida was born in Nagoya, Japan. She moved to Germany at the age of fifteen to get formal training as a concert and church organist in Paderborn, with the Paderborn Cathedral organist Helmut Peters. She continued her training at the Conservatory of Music (Hochschule für Musik) in Cologne, Germany, which she completed with a full degree (“A-Examen”) in Catholic Church Music. Further studies with Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Stockmeier followed, graduating with the “Concert Exam” with distinction.
Master classes and individual lessons allowed Aya Yoshida to work with Hermann J. Busch, G. Litaize, A. Rößler, N. Danby and others. In 1993, Aya Yoshida was appointed Music Director of St. Paul’s Church in Cologne, Germany – one of the largest catholic churches in the city. She held this post for thirteen years prior to moving back to Japan in 2006.
Ms. Yoshida tours regularly in Germany, Japan and other countries, and has released three CDs on German independent record labels. Aya Yoshida currently teaches as a full-time lecturer at Nagoya Woman’s University in Nagoya, Japan and she leads her annual lecture series and workshop "Autumn Organ Studies in Nagoya" which are open to both professional musicians and amateurs.
Throughout her career, Aya Yoshida has been championing the organ compositions of living composers such as Thomas Meyer-Fiebig, and regularly performs original works for organ and a broad range of highly effective concert arrangements, including from opera (Carmen, Meistersinger) and film (Star Wars).
Thomas Meyer-Fiebig was born in Bielefeld, Germany, in 1949 where he got into contact early on with organ music through his father, who was minister at the “ Neustadt St. Mary’s Church” in his home town. Since age nine, Thomas took piano and harmony lessons, followed soon by his first classical compositions. Since age sixteen, Thomas took organ lessons, which led to his substituting for organists at church services, and performing at local church concerts. He graduated from “Ratsgymnasium Bielefeld” high school in 1969, and started his mandatory 18-month military service. While still serving in the Army, he received special permission to start his music composition studies at the prestigious Music Academy in Detmold (“Staatliche Musikhochschule Detmold”). His principal teachers at the Academy were Johannes Driessler und Giselher Klebe, both highly regarded Classical composers from the German post-war era.
In 1978, Thomas Meyer-Fiebig became teaching assistant for Composition at the Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo, Japan. He was promoted to full time Lecturer in 1981, and to Professor in 1989. In 1996, he also took over the Master Classes in Composition at the Graduate School of the Kunitachi College of Music. In addition to his continuing teaching responsibilities at the KCM Tokyo, Mr Meyer-Fiebig has continued to actively compose, primarily organ and chamber music, and to regularly tour as a concert organist in Germany and Japan. For decades, Mr Meyer-Fiebig has also researched J.S. Bach’s organ music, trying to find performing solutions to incomplete organ composition fragments, and to “translate” important Bach solo instrument compositions into the sound world of Bach’s organ music style. The results of these efforts are being presented by Aya Yoshida on this CD.
J.S. Bach (1685 – 1750) wrote works for organ virtually throughout his entire creative life. His over 220 organ works, not counting works of spurious origin and fragments, represent the absolute pinnacle of repertoire for the instrument, and contain many of Bach’s most searching and profound, but also technically virtuosic works. “The title Fantasy 1720 of this CD”, Aya Yoshida explains, “derives from the fact that two of the works on this recording are Fantasies, and that most of the original works or fragments were written by Bach around the year 1720.”
A particular fascination to composer/organist Thomas Meyer-Fiebig have been some of Bach’s organ music fragments which tantalizingly raise the question of whether their complete manuscript pages have gotten lost, or whether they were abandoned by Bach at an early stage of composition. This recording is unique in that it combines the recording world premieres of the Meyer-Fiebig completions of the two most important Bach organ composition fragments with premiere recordings of his arrangements for organ of two famous Bach works for solo violin. Several of the arrangements were written specifically for the concert repertoire of Aya Yoshida.
In the case of the CD’s opening work, the Fantasy in C Major BWV 573, assumed to be written between 1722 and 1725, only the first twelve bars have survived. Scientific literature on this fragment has marked its completion by Bach as “unclear”. Thomas Meyer-Fiebig’s assumption regarding this fragment is that Bach had indeed abandoned the composition after its first twelve bars, and that he did not return to it later.
“The structure of the first twelve bars suggest that Bach wanted to write a large “Concerto”-style piece,” speculates Thomas Meyer-Fiebig. “Bach had already arranged the works of other composers in an Organ Concerto style. Perhaps he was held back from completing the work by doubts about the initial bars of the work and his ability to complete them into a full Concerto-style composition, or - more likely – perhaps he was held back by his life circumstances at the time which included his application to the position at the Thomaskirche, and his eventual move to Leipzig.”
“To complete the fragment, I decided to follow the formal and modulation plans of other comparable, existing Bach organ works such as the Prelude in C minor BWV 546 or the Prelude in E minor BWV 548. In particular, I followed the idea of a “partial recapitulation” i.e. in contrast to BWV 548, the beginning of the recapitulation is cut. – Based on my experiences with completing the Fugue in C minor BWV 562, I was able to complete the Fantasy in about 2 weeks, in January 1998”.
Of the Fantasy and Fugue in C minor BWV 562, the Fantasy may have been completed by Bach as early as between 1708 and 1717 during his tenure in Weimar. It is unclear what may have persuaded Bach to start working on an accompanying Fugue about 35 years later, around 1745. Of this Fugue, only the first 27 bars have survived which are identical with the first manuscript page. “A composer might not abandon an unsatisfactory composition exactly at the end of a page, but rather before or after – I am therefore assuming that Bach continued the composition past the first page,” speculates Thomas Meyer – Fiebig.
A defining characteristic of the 27-bar fragment is the introduction of a “stretto” section (= a close succession of entries of the fugal theme before the subject of the fugue has sounded completely) already in bar 20. “I am interpreting this early entry of the “stretto” device in the composition of this fugue as indicating that Bach actually had written, or was in the middle of writing, a double fugue ( = a fugue which introduces a second theme).”
“My biggest challenge in completing this fugue fragment was therefore to create a second fugue subject which could have been written by Bach, which had enough substance for its own compositional development, and which was combinable with Bach’s main fugue theme. I searched for such a second fugue theme for 16 years, from 1981 through 1997. Once found however, I was able to complete the Fugue quickly”, explains Thomas Meyer- Fiebig.
“The structure of my completion is based primarily on Bach’s Fugue in C minor BWV 546. I have chosen this fugue as my structural model for my completion, as there is some speculation that the Fantasy BWV 562 and the Fugue BWV 546 may have initially have been intended to form a pair.”
The Sonata No 2 in A Minor BWV 1003 for solo violin was composed by Bach, as part of a set of 3 Sonatas and 3 Partitas. He most likely finished the entire set by the year 1720 by which time he was Kapellmeister (= music director) in Köthen, Germany. “The idea to transcribe the violin sonata as a “Concerto for Organ” came to me already in the 1990s, and I completed the 4th movement first. I completed the other three movements only after Aya Yoshida expressed an interest to perform the entire piece, following our idea to create the repertoire of this CD.”
It is also interesting to note that the idea to transcribe the violin solo sonatas for other instruments goes back to the composer J.S. Bach himself – who published an arrangement of this sonata for harpsichord, now catalogued as BWV 964.
The sheer majesty, grandeur and depth of inspiration of the Ciaccona, composed by Bach as the crowning last movement of his Partita D Minor BWV 1004 in 1720, is almost at odds with its seemingly small scale instrumental realization for Baroque violin. As result, the work has seen many remarkable adaptations for larger, or more powerfully projecting instrumental forces, particularly in the late Romantic era, including for organ. According to Thomas Meyer-Fiebig, these earlier organ arrangements were mostly designed to be played on instruments of a Romantic building style and provenance. Other famous arrangements of the Ciaccona were the piano adaptations by Johannes Brahms (for left hand only) and by Ferruccio Busoni, and the spectacular large orchestra version by Leopold Stokowski.
When Aya Yoshida expressed to Thomas Meyer-Fiebig her intent to perform an organ version which would also be playable on a smaller, Baroque-style instrument, he complied by creating the arrangement featured on this CD, in November 2005. It is however fully adaptable to organs of every size, including the large instrument at the Dresden Kreuzkirche recorded here.
In Thomas Meyer-Fiebig’s version for organ, the huge sonorities of the frequent four-part writing which are sometimes only implied in Bach’s violin version, are fully “spelled out”. Distributed over the sound spectrum of several octaves and many organ pipe registrations, the Ciaccona’s vast journey through 64 variations over a single four-bar phrase culminates in a powerful restatement of the initial theme in Bach’s re-harmonization. Employing the sonic weight of the immense, rarely used sub-bass 32-foot register of the Kreuzkirche, Dresen, Aya Yoshida brings the Ciaccona to a both moving and rousing end – completing a remarkable musical journey through a unique, and carefully curated corner of Bach’s visionary music. -
Since its installation by the Gebr. Jehmlich firm from Dresden, the Organ at the Evangelische Kreuzkirche, Dresden, Germany, in 1963, has developed its reputation a one of the finest church and concert organs built in post-war Germany. The instrument was built with initially 76 registers – but was completely refurbished by the Jehmlich company between 2005 and 2008, at which time four registers were added to a total of now 80. The organ is characterized by a great transparency and beauty of sound across its entire spectrum of registers while at the same time being capable of significant tonal weight and volume. Thomas Meyer-Fiebig has known the instrument since 1993, and he visited it again with Aya Yoshida in 2010 – at which time they decided that it would be the ideal instrument for this recording.
Joachim “Jochen” Becker
Producer, engineer, mixing & mastering: Thomas Koch. Recorded at Evangelische Kreuzkirche Dresden, Germany, from August 22 – 24, 2011. Photography: Atsushi Funamoto (Aya Yoshida), Artist’s private archives (Thomas Meyer-Fiebig). Package Design: Jack Frisch. Executive Producer: Joachim “Jochen” Becker.