Organ Concerto No.3

Johann Sebastian Bach

Organ Concerto No.3 in C major


About this work

"Grosso Mogul" -- or "Grand Mogul" -- is indeed a fitting name for Antonio Vivaldi's magnificent and showy Concerto in D major for violin, strings, and basso continuo, RV 208. Perhaps even grander still is J.S. Bach's transcription of it as a work for organ solo -- the Concerto for organ No. 3 in C major, BWV 594 (ca. 1713 - 1718); it is the longest by far of all the organ transcriptions.

The first published version of Vivaldi's violin concerto is to be found in Op. 7 of 1716 - 1717, as Op. 7 No. 5. But this published version has a different middle movement than RV 208 proper, and also than BWV 594 (the version in Op. 7 is known as RV 208a); Bach, therefore, must have gotten his hands on a privately circulated copy of the original RV 208.

Both the original concerto and Bach's transcription follow the standard three-movement blueprint, with quick outer movements (the last especially lengthy) and an Adagio the center. Besides transposing the concerto from D major down to C major, Bach also effected a number of small changes to its textures and counterpoint to make it better suit the organ, as well as his own tastes. The bravura solo passages of the first and third movements become, in Bach's hands, exhilarating displays of finger velocity and hand coordination.