Georg Andreas Sorge, O Herre Gott, dein Göttlich Wort (reconstruction)
A few years ago I transcribed a manuscript containing some 20 plus chorale preludes composed by Georg Andreas Sorge. No less than five of them are incomplete, because there are several pages missing from this manuscript. Of one of these 5 there exist only the four closing bars. Not enough to get an impression of the content and the quality of the compositions. The other four, however, are more substantial, varying from about 1/3 to 2/3 of the complete composition.
Like most of the compositions in this manuscript, the 4 preludes of which remains enough to get an idea of there musical substance, are actually quite nice pieces. It would be great if there were some way of restoring the missing parts and create a playable version of how the complete composition could have sounded. Sorge was not one the great masters, but he wrote very nice choral preludes, and the fragments that do exist are very nice fragments of music as well.
So, I decided to try to restore one of these composition by somehow composing the missing parts myself. And I wanted the result to be as close as possible to how the complete original could have sounded by staying faithful to Sorge’s style and to the way he composed this type of music. Idealy, a listener should not be able to hear where Sorge’s composition breaks of and where my writing takes over.
The part that does exist is quite extensive, five complete systems on one page. The title is written on the top of the page: “O Herre Gott, dein Göttlich Wort”. The complete melody of this choral looks like this:
I’ve drawn a box around the notes at the end of the first system, because if you look at the last system in the manuscript you’ll see that the manuscript breaks of at precisely that point:
So, we miss a little over half of the composition, because we miss 6 bars of the choral melody. That’s quite a lot of material to compose anew.
Well, perhaps not.
If you look closely at the second system of the choral melody, you’ll notice that the melody in bars 8-11 is the same as in bars 1-4. So, for these bars at the end of the choral melody, I can simply reuse the material Sorge wrote for the first 4 bars of the choral melody. And I have only to compose new material for bars 6 and 7.
The compositional procedure Sorge uses in this choral prelude is each fragment of the choral melody is introduced with a short introduction in the accompanying parts. And this short introduction is build mainly on the fragment of the choral melody it introduces. So, besides writing an accompaniment for bars 6 and 7 of the choral melody, I have one more thing to do: write a short introduction for the fragment of the choral melody that starts on the last note of bar 7.
And though that fragment is largely the same as the first fragment of the choral melody, I cannot use the material Sorge writes at the start of the composition. In all his other choral preludes (and in this one as well), Sorge writes a rather long first introduction (of 8 or even more bars) that he does not repeat in the rest of the composition. Therefore, I had to write something new to introduce that fragment of the choral melody.
I decided to write a short fugato on that fragment of the choral melody, as Sorge does the same with some of the other fragments of the choral melody. And on top of that I used the material of two bars from Sorge’s original introduction. The result looks like this:
To round it of, I wrote a short coda, no more than 4 bars. And that is one incomplete choral prelude restored. Succesfully? Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And the proof of this restoration is in the hearing. Listen to the recording below and decide wether or not I succeeded in my goal: it should not be noticeable where Sorge’s writing breaks of and where my writing takes over.
The recording was done with the Hauptwerk software and the sampleset, made by Sonus Paradisi, of the Schittger organ in the St. Martini-kerk, Groningen.