Within the autumn of 1705, the 20-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach took a 4 month depart from his place as organist within the German city of Arnstadt and set out on foot for Lübeck, almost 300 miles to the north. The aim of the arduous journey was to go to the well-known organist and composer, Dietrich Buxtehude (1637–1707).
Buxtehude’s musical affect might be heard in Bach’s Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C Main, BWV 564. The work for organ was most likely composed between 1710 and 1717 in the course of the time Bach was employed in Weimar. The opening Toccata includes a virtuosic pedal solo which is predicated on the same passage in Buxtehude’s Prelude in C Main, BuxWV 137. But in Bach’s fingers, Buxtehude’s preliminary seed is expanded into “the longest identified pedal introduction.”
The Toccata begins with a way of rhetorical flourish. As improvisatory fragments are offered and slowly assembled, pressure mounts. The pedal solo delivers the suspense of a tightrope act. Then, abruptly, the music launches into movement and the entire motivic threads are spectacularly developed. For some listeners, this motion suggests the “solo” and “tutti” dialogue of a concerto.
Set within the minor, the Adagio unfolds with a lamenting melody, punctuated by wrenching Neapolitan sixths. This quietly passionate aria is propelled ahead by a persistent strolling bass line. In its remaining moments, the Adagio drifts off right into a single, looking musical line. A concluding Grave part brings dense dissonances and a way of thriller.
The topic of the sunny Fugue seems as a brand new rhetorical fragment. Set in 6/8 time, this music unfolds as a joyful and exulted dance. The ultimate cadence drifts away quietly, with a smile.
This adventurous music has impressed diversifications. The 20th century Italian composer, Ferruccio Busoni, printed a solo piano transcription in 1900. Moreover, Leopold Stokowski created a full-bodied orchestral association of the Adagio.
This 2014 efficiency from the Netherlands Bach Society options the organist, Reitze Smits, acting at St Jacob’s Church in Leeuwarden:
Featured Picture: the opening of BWV 564 in an early manuscript copy by Johann Peter Kellner