Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542

Last updated
Robert Huw Morgan plays Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in G minor on the Fisk-Nanney organ at the Stanford Memorial Church in Stanford, California.

The Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, is an organ prelude and fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach. It acquired that name to distinguish it from the earlier Little Fugue in G minor, which is shorter. This piece is not to be confused with the Prelude and Fugue in A minor, which is also for organ and also sometimes called "the Great". [1] [2]

Contents

Bach's biographer Spitta and some later scholars think that the Fugue was improvised in 1720 during Bach's audition for an organist post at St. James' Church in Hamburg. Assuming this is correct, the theme or subject of the Fugue, a Dutch popular tune (called 'Ik ben gegroet van…'), would have been given to Bach for him to demonstrate his talents as an improviser. It has been suggested by musicologist Christoph Wolff that the choice of a Dutch tune was in homage to Johann Adam Reincken, the long-serving organist at St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg, who was born in Holland. During his 1720 trip to Hamburg Bach is believed to have met Reincken, [3] whose music he had known since his teens. [4]

The Fantasia may have been composed separately during Bach's time in Köthen (1717–23).

No autograph manuscript of either the Fantasia or the Fugue survives, and no manuscript of the Fantasia survives from the composer's lifetime. [5] It is not clear whether the practice of coupling the Fantasia with the Fugue derives from the composer himself. William H. Bates writes: [6]

Only one eighteenth-century manuscript in its original state [...] places the two pieces side by side. Further, it is evident that the fugue circulated widely [in manuscript] without the fantasy [...]. In fact, known or likely fugue copies by Bach pupils or associates [...] are devoid of any association with the fantasy.

There are many variant textual readings in the manuscripts, perhaps most prominently in the final chord of the Fantasia, which is recorded as both G major and G minor. [7] Some manuscripts preserve the fugue in the key of F minor rather than G minor; this transposition was probably performed in order to make the fugue playable on an organ whose pedals lacked a high D, and may well have been approved or even carried out by the composer himself. [8]

Arrangements

It was transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt as S.463. Modern arrangers have orchestrated the work.

Related Research Articles

Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 Organ music by Johann Sebastian Bach

The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, is a piece of organ music written, according to its oldest extant sources, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). The piece opens with a toccata section, followed by a fugue that ends in a coda. Scholars differ as to when it was composed. It could have been as early as c. 1704. Alternatively, a date as late as the 1750s has been suggested. To a large extent, the piece conforms to the characteristics deemed typical of the north German organ school of the Baroque era with divergent stylistic influences, such as south German characteristics.

Johann Adam Reincken Dutch/German composer and organist

Johann Adam Reincken was a Dutch/German organist and composer. He was one of the most important composers of the 17th century, a friend of Dieterich Buxtehude and a major influence on Johann Sebastian Bach; however, very few of his works survive to this day.

Vincent Lübeck

Vincent Lübeck was a German composer and organist. He was born in Padingbüttel and worked as organist and composer at Stade's St. Cosmae et Damiani (1675–1702) and Hamburg's famous St. Nikolai (1702–1740), where he played one of the largest contemporary organs. He enjoyed a remarkably high reputation in his lifetime, and had numerous pupils, among which were two of his sons.

Eight Short Preludes and Fugues

The Eight Short Preludes and Fugues, BWV 553–560, are a collection of works for keyboard and pedal formerly attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach. They are now believed to have been composed by one of Bach's pupils, possibly Johann Tobias Krebs or his son Johann Ludwig Krebs, or by the Bohemian composer Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer.

St. Catherines Church, Hamburg

St. Catherine's Church is one of the five principal Lutheran churches (Hauptkirchen) of Hamburg, Germany. The base of its spire, dating from the 13th century, is the second oldest building preserved in the city, after the lighthouse on Neuwerk island. It is situated on an island near what was formerly the southern boundary of the medieval city, opposite the historic harbour area on the Elbe river. It traditionally served as the church of the seamen.

Wolfgang Friedrich Rübsam is a German-American organist, pianist, composer and pedagogue.

Johann Peter Kellner was a German organist and composer. He was the father of Johann Christoph Kellner.

Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes Organ pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach

The Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes, BWV 651–668, are a set of chorale preludes for organ prepared by Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig in his final decade (1740–1750), from earlier works composed in Weimar, where he was court organist. The works form an encyclopedic collection of large-scale chorale preludes, in a variety of styles harking back to the previous century, that Bach gradually perfected during his career. Together with the Orgelbüchlein, the Schübler Chorales, the third book of the Clavier-Übung and the Canonic Variations, they represent the summit of Bach's sacred music for solo organ.

Bach-Busoni Editions Series of publications by the Italian pianist-composer Ferruccio Busoni

The Bach-Busoni Editions are a series of publications by the Italian pianist-composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924) containing primarily piano transcriptions of keyboard music by Johann Sebastian Bach. They also include performance suggestions, practice exercises, musical analysis, an essay on the art of transcribing Bach's organ music for piano, an analysis of the fugue from Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' sonata, and other related material. The later editions also include free adaptations and original compositions by Busoni which are based on the music of Bach.

The Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 562 is a relatively short piece written for the organ by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach began the composition during his time in Weimar, and an unfinished fugue, probably by Bach, was added in his later life. The piece features a heavily appoggiatura-laden harmony.

<i>Clavier-Übung III</i> Collection of organ compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach

The Clavier-Übung III, sometimes referred to as the German Organ Mass, is a collection of compositions for organ by Johann Sebastian Bach, started in 1735–36 and published in 1739. It is considered Bach's most significant and extensive work for organ, containing some of his most musically complex and technically demanding compositions for that instrument.

Organ Sonatas (Bach)

The organ sonatas, BWV 525–530 by Johann Sebastian Bach are a collection of six sonatas in trio sonata form. Each of the sonatas has three movements, with three independent parts in the two manuals and obbligato pedal. The collection was put together in Leipzig in the late 1720s and contained reworkings of prior compositions by Bach from earlier cantatas, organ works and chamber music as well as some newly composed movements. The sixth sonata, BWV 530, is the only one for which all three movements were specially composed for the collection. When played on an organ, the second manual part is often played an octave lower on the keyboard with appropriate registration. Commentators have suggested that the collection might partly have been intended for private study to perfect organ technique, some pointing out that its compass allows it to be played on a pedal clavichord. The collection of sonatas is generally regarded as one of Bach's masterpieces for organ. The sonatas are also considered to be amongst his most difficult compositions for the instrument.

An Wasserflüssen Babylon 1525 Lutheran hymn by Wolfgang Dachstein

"An Wasserflüssen Babylon" is a Lutheran hymn by Wolfgang Dachstein, which was first published in Strasbourg in 1525. The text of the hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 137. Its singing tune, which is the best known part of the hymn and Dachstein's best known melody, was popularised as chorale tune of Paul Gerhardt's 17th-century Passion hymn "Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die Schuld". With this hymn text, Dachstein's tune is included in the Protestant hymnal Evangelisches Gesangbuch.

The Fantasia or Pièce d'Orgue in G major, BWV 572, is a composition for organ by Johann Sebastian Bach.

<i>An Wasserflüssen Babylon</i> (Reincken)

An Wasserflüssen Babylon is a chorale fantasia for organ by Johann Adam Reincken, based on "An Wasserflüssen Babylon", a 16th-century Lutheran hymn by Wolfgang Dachstein. Reincken likely composed the fantasia in 1663, partly as a tribute to Heinrich Scheidemann, his tutor and predecessor as organist at St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg. With its 327 bars, it is the most extended repertoire piece of this kind. Reincken's setting is a significant representative of the north German style of organ music.

Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 906

Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 906, is a keyboard piece, likely unfinished, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach sometime during his tenure in Leipzig (1723–1750). The work survives in two autograph scores, one with the fantasia alone, and the other, believed to have been penned around 1738 in which the fugue is incomplete. The piece is notable for being one of Bach's latest compositions in the prelude and fugue format, and for being a showcase of Bach trying his hand at the emerging galant and empfindsam styles of music that his sons were known to compose.

Fantasia and Fugue may refer to several compositions attributed mainly to Johann Sebastian Bach:

References

  1. Williams, Peter (2003), The Organ Music of J. S. Bach (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN   978-0-521-89115-8
  2. Yearsley, David (2012), Bach's Feet: The Organ Pedals in European Culture, Cambridge University Press, ISBN   978-0521199018
  3. According to Bach's obituary the two met in "about 1722".
  4. Researchers find Bach’s oldest manuscripts. 2006. Associated Press.
  5. Bates (2008)
  6. Bates (2008), pp, 82–83
  7. Bates (2008), p. 60
  8. Bates (2008), p. 29

Bibliography