Prelude & Fugue

Johann Sebastian Bach

Prelude & Fugue in C major


About this work

The Prelude and Fugue in C major exists in an earlier version possibly written when Bach was in Weimar, 1708--1717, but the present version is a revision Bach made while in Leipzig. The two sections complement each other perfectly, the Prelude having a rapid, flashy character while the Fugue opens with a majestic, rising subject. The two are ideal choices for both recitals and service music.

The opening of the Prelude spans almost the entire range of the organ, from high C in the great to low C in the pedal. The descending semiquaver figure sounded back and forth between the bass and tenor forms the backbone of the piece. As this motive is developed, the pedal begins a sequential motive on the upbeat, carrying the piece forward. After a short pedal solo, the falling figure returns in the pedal and the tenor to recall the beginning, and a wonderful diminished-seventh chord sounds over a tonic pedal right before the end of this section.

The alla breve Fugue has a very stately sound to it, employing a slow, rising tetrachord for the subject. Syncopation between the voices is one of the prime elements of this fugue, as motive development often begins on the upbeat. No consistent countersubject occurs, and the theme is weaved with various textures, oftentimes unnoticeably. The last entry of the theme occurs in the soprano and fills out the thicker, chordal texture pulling the piece to its close.