Fantasia for Organ

Johann Sebastian Bach

Fantasia for Organ in G major


About this work

Because most of Johann Sebastian Bach's keyboard music before about 1723 survives only in copies made generally by his students, precise dating of a given piece is nearly impossible. Scholars generally agree that the Fantasia for organ in G major was composed sometime before 1712, probably while Bach was working at Weimar (1708-17). In this piece, we hear clearly Bach's reluctance to take the inherited Baroque path of writing keyboard music that is transferable between the harpsichord and the organ. This, no doubt, was the result of Buxtehude's influence. Bach's pedal lines are a crucial element of the texture of most of his works; abandoning them would leave a serious gap in the logic of the works. Youthful vigor and an emphasis on digital dexterity mark the early G major Fantasia, which Bach opens with a light and transparent introduction that sets the stage for the much more dense section to come. This central area is far more rigorously measured than the introductory flourishes and is in five voices. Here we find Bach composing organ music at its most idiomatic, producing a texture suited both to the instrument and to the temperament of the composer. The thematic material tends to move downward. After some motivic development, however, the pedals enter and constantly move upward, increasing tension and creating dissonance. The general feel becomes more improvisatory as the dense counterpoint relaxes and the pedal notes begin to move downward chromatically under freely flowing passages for both hands.