Johann Ludwig Krebs (Buttelstedt, 12 October 1713 – Altenburg, 1 January 1780) was a favourite pupil of the great J.S. Bach (who regarded him particularly highly, punning on their two surnames declaring Krebs ‘was the only crayfish in his stream’) and a supremely talented inheritor of the composer–organist tradition of the Northern European Baroque. As a member of the last generation of these musicians, he lived in a time of marked shifts in taste, during the rise of the empfindsamer (sensitive) style, with its preference for balance and grace over the high baroque’s interwoven contrapuntal lines and chromatic harmony. For this reason his genius met with little acceptance during his long career, yet despite never securing a prestigious position and salary and never being commissioned to write he composed a significant body of music, particularly for the organ at which he excelled, his skill almost rivalling that of his mentor, J.S. Bach.
Today, long after the stylistic trends of his day have faded, Krebs is appreciated for his exceptionally refined music. For the organ this includes a variety of pieces in several improvisatory and contrapuntal forms, including a great many chorale settings. Thirteen of these come from his Clavier-Übung (keyboard method), the first volume of which was composed for the organ.
Manuel Tomadin has selected three instruments of the Northern European Baroque School, lesser-known than others in their native Germany and Holland and yet of very high quality, plus a modern instrument for the recording of the Clavier-Übung. The latter, built in 2007 by the Giovanni Pradella Workshop in the Italian alpine province of Sondrio, is nevertheless constructed according to ancient techniques in handcrafted hardwood and painstakingly cast and rolled pipes.
Johann Ludwig Krebs lived from 1713 till 1780, a period of transition from the Baroque to the Classical Period. Taught by his organist father he was sent to the St. Thomas School in Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach was his teacher. From 1755 on he was organist at the court of Prince Friedrich of Gotha-Altenberg, a position he held till his death.
Krebs had difficulty in adjusting to the changing musical tastes of his time, which tended towards the Empfindsame Stil and the Rococo. His forte was the “old fashioned” counterpoint, in which he excelled and was only paralleled by his teacher and mentor J.S. Bach, who was full of praise for him, calling him “der einzige Krebs in meinem Bach” (the only crab in my stream).
This new recording of the complete organ works by Krebs uses several historical organs: the Arp Schnitger organ of Noordbroek, the F.C. Schnitger organ of Zuidbroek, the Gottfried Silbermann organ in Freiberg, and a Pradella Organ (2007) of Valle di Colorina. Organist Manuel Tomadin is one of the foremost Italian organists of today, a scholar and passionate musician, with an impressive discography to his name: Husumer Organ Book, Alberti Complete Keyboard Works, and other North German organ masters.