Organ Concerto No.5

Johann Sebastian Bach

Organ Concerto No.5 in D minor

BWV596

About this work

The Organ Concerto No 5, in D minor, was written between 1713 and 1714, while Bach served as court organist in Weimar (1708--1717). During this time, Bach made about twenty keyboard transcriptions of concertos by other composers; five were written expressly for the organ. Although two of these organ concertos were based on compositions by the young Johann Ernst, Prince of Weimar, Bach most likely transcribed the others -- from Vivaldi -- to gain insight into the compositional techniques of the Italians, and the Concerto No. 5 is among the most important of these. This work, comprising four movements, is very different than the other two Vivaldi transcriptions. The first movement is basically a short, 32-measure introduction to the work. The two upper voices engage in a rapid dialogue above a D pedal point before the texture thickens towards the end of the movement.

The second movement opens with a short, chordal section before launching into a three-voice fugue with pedal accompaniment. The fugue testifies to Vivaldi's contrapuntal skills; he achieves an invertible counterpoint in which all lines can be exchanged for another. However, this movement is sectional and lacks the development of any fugue Bach would have written.

The third movement assumes a ternary form, with a distinct chordal section surrounding a solo melody with accompaniment. The melody keeps the same dotted-rhythm throughout, but it goes through some interesting harmonies and has a nice effect.

The fourth movement is built on the traditional ritornello principle, but the theme is presented on two manuals instead of just one. The theme is also fairly long, introducing an idea before moving on to another. Some wonderful chromatic lines occur here, especially in the bass at the beginning, middle, and end.

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