About this work
Compared to Bach's more famous prelude and fugue efforts, this is rather clumsy in its counterpoint (cautiously limiting itself to two or sometimes three voices), and so it's thought to be extremely early Bach, perhaps even his very first organ piece. However unsure the counterpoint may be, the piece as a whole displays an interesting sense of architecture, which Bach would develop later in his career, and shows a certain flair in the use of pedal notes. Bach seems to have patterned this piece on the five-section fugues of Buxtehude. The prelude breaks into three parts: a preliminary section in sixteenth-note runs, a cheerfully florid fugato of 17 measures, and a short interlude. The fugue proper, a double fugue, borrows its main theme from a Fantasia by Sweelinck; the counter subject, which becomes increasingly important through the course of this work, is a grown-up version of the little fugato from the prelude. One arresting harmonic event, which can be considered either another bit of clumsiness or an act of daring, is an abrupt modulation to C minor, from which the fugue gradually works its way back to the tonic A minor. The fifth section is a brief epilogue, a toccata bringing the piece to term on a note of confidence.