Fantasia & Fugue

Johann Sebastian Bach

Fantasia & Fugue in C minor


About this work

J.S. Bach's Fantasia and Fugue for organ in C minor, BWV 537 is not a particularly long piece, but it is a dense and involved one in which a very un-flashy and serious-minded approach to prelude and fugue-type composition can be heard and seen. This is a departure begun by Bach more or less during his Weimar years (1708 - 1717), toward the end of which period the present work was probably composed, as were, with similar electrifyingly virtuosic style, such early works as the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 and the Prelude and Fugue in E major, BWV 566.

The music of the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 537, especially that of the fantasia, is still very lush and ornate, but there is not a single cadenza-like passage in the entire work; not once does a virtuoso passage interrupt the high-minded musical essay, as it does innumerable times in BWV 565 (the toccata of which is entirely composed in such a manner). The fantasia is in 6/4 meter and falls into two unequal halves, each of which takes up the same two basic musical ideas, a dotted-rhythm tune, in imitation, and then, a little later (also in imitation, initiated by the pedals), a leaping eighth-note idea. The fugue's steady subject insists, four times in a row, on the pitch G (or C in the tonal answer form) and is thus easily recognized each time it appears during the 130 contrapuntal bars.