Gianandrea Pauletta | J.S. Bach: Toccatas, Preludes, Fantasia and Fugues BWV 538-543

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J.S. Bach: Toccatas, Preludes, Fantasia and Fugues BWV 538-543

by Gianandrea Pauletta

In these Preludes and Fugues we find, with the great interpretation of the organist G. Pauletta, all the exuberance of the organ music of Bach. Registration made on the great organ "D.Kleuker" in Casale sul Sile (IT).
Genre: Classical: Bach
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 538
10:58 $2.50
2. Prelude and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 539
7:11 $2.50
3. Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540
13:05 $2.50
4. Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541
6:59 $2.50
5. Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542
11:15 $2.50
6. Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543
8:25 $2.50
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538 by Johann Sebastian Bach it is also know with the nickname Dorian. This is in reference to the fact that the piece is written without a key signature — a notation that is uncommon today and leads one to assume the Dorian mode.
However, the two pieces are quite different musically. Like the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 562, it is nearly monothematic. It opens with a motoric sixteenth-note motif that continues almost uninterrupted to the end of the piece, and includes unusually elaborate concertato effects. Bach even notates manual changes for the organist, an unusual practice in the day as well as in Bach's organ output.
The fugue, also in D minor, is long and complex, and involves a rather archaic-sounding subject which prominently features syncopations and three upward leaps of a perfect fourth. The strict contrapuntal development is only broken in the final four bars, when a few massive chords bring the piece to a close. The fugue of BWV 538 is very similar to the fugue of BWV 540. They both imply an alla breve time signature; they both use subjects with semibreves and syncopated minims, with a rhythm of constant quavers, rather than constant semi-quavers seen in most of Bach's fugues; they both use chromaticism, harmonic suspensions, and uninterrupted succession of subjects and answers.
Bach worked in Weimar between 1708 and 1717, during which he composed most of his organ works including BWV 538.

Also the prelude and fugue BWV 539 in D minor was probably written in Weimar.
The prelude adopts a simple style, without the use of the pedals (manualiter). The contrapuntal dialogue between the voices is sober but gently melodic. The use of arpeggios reminiscent of the harpsichord writing.
The fugue was not conceived for organ, but it is the transcription of the second movement of the Sonata n. 1 for Solo Violin in G minor BWV 1001.
When adapting the fugue for solo organ, Bach transposed the work to the key of D minor, and added many passages which were not in the violin original, which embellish and enhance the work.

About the Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540, it is thought by some that Bach joined together two previously separate pieces to create this work. The toccata is thought to be written after 1714, and the fugue before 1731.
The toccata starts with a large linear canon (imitation theme, one hand imitating the other) over a pedal point in F major. It is then followed by a pedal solo vamping material from the canon. The canon is reiterated with some variations in the dominant in C major. This time the hands are switched, and the left hand leads the right. This is again followed by a long pedal solo. The two large canon flourishes cover 108 measures of the composition. The pedal solos cover 60 measures. The concerto movement exhibits a seven-part structure. The canons and pedal solos effect the departure from the home key of F to the dominant C, and the entire rest of the movement, with its concertante 3-part imitation and striking "proto-waltzes", constitute the harmonic return. This formal pattern is unique within Bach's works.
Because of the range of the pedal parts, the organ at Weißenfels, with a pedal compass of f1, may be the organ the composition was written on. The Toccata (as a prelude) is proportionally the largest of all Bach's works in the format of prelude-fugue. It is often treated as a show piece, with the ensuing fugue omitted. The Toccata's rhythmic signature suggests a passepied or a musette, although the monumental scale of the movement does not support these characterizations.
Nor does the harmonic adventurousness: 45 measures after the second pedal solo there is a dominant chord which resolves deceptively to the third-inversion dominant applied to the neapolitan. In particular, the doubled root is found to move outward in contrary chromatic motion to a major 9th; in the bass is a descending augmented unison, which absolutely could not be farther from the expected fifth. Bach implements this powerful deceptive cadence three times in the piece.
The first subject in the fugue is chromatic and ornamental. The second subject has a lot of modulation shifts and is sometimes initially presented as the counter-subject of the first. The Fugue is Bach's only thorough-going double fugue, where two subjects are exposed in separate sections and then combined. The effect is enhanced by the increasing rhythmic activity of the second subject and by the more frequent use of modulation in the final section of the fugue.
The bravura of the F-Major toccata, with its pedal solos and manual virtuosity, contrasts sharply with the rather sober opening of the Fugue. Both represent two diverse aspects of Italian influence: the motoric rhythms and sequential passagework of the Toccata, and the traditional alla breve counterpoint of the Fugue, with its chromaticism, harmonic suspensions, and uninterrupted succession of subjects and answers. These techniques are very similar to those used in the "Dorian" Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538.

The Prelude and Fuge in G Major BWV541 was probably written during Johann Sebastian Bach's service at Weimar (1708-1717), most likely in 1712. Sometime after 1740, Bach revised the piece. In this work, Bach uses a lot of repeated chords and repeated notes. This characteristic is typical of the Weimar period. Repeated notes are a salient feature not only of the fugue (a characteristic associated by some with the north German school), but of the prelude as well, where the repetition of entire chords plays a significant role. Repetition to this degree is somewhat unusual in works of the time, found in little organ music and almost no harpsichord works. A graceful passage consisting of a single line elegantly opens the triple meter prelude, filling in harmonies and providing no hint of the thicker texture to come. When the other voices enter, the device of repetition begins immediately, alternating measures of repeated chords with the fluid line of the opening. At times, the chords become very thick, while only the pedal part maintains the constant sixteenth note movement. As a motif of six repeated eighth notes moves from voice to voice, Bach passes through numerous chromatic alterations of the melodic material. Unlike some of his later works, which employ repetition to prepare suspensions, the reiteration of notes and chords here is for its own sake, creating rhythmic drive.
The fugue subject is built principally of repeated notes with little melodic contour. Beyond this and the key of G major, there is little relationship to the prelude, for the repeated notes do not grow into repeated chords. In an unusual move, Bach takes some of the middle entries of the subject through the tonic minor, and a Neapolitan cadence near the end is striking. Although there is only one extended episode, this and the other, shorter, episodes amount to half of the fugue. This work is a dense, motivically intense piece that is more a study in compositional rigor and harmonic adventurousness than in the presentation of tuneful material.

Evidence suggests that J.S. Bach completed and revised the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor for organ, BWV 542 (the "Great" G minor, as opposed to BWV 578, the "Little" G minor), as an audition for an organist position in Hamburg in 1720. Bach didn't get the job, but, happily enough, posterity did get the piece; generations of organists since then have considered it one of their repertoire's crown jewels. The two parts of BWV 542 (the fantasia -- sometimes titled Prelude instead -- and the fugue) are thought to have been composed separately: the fugue is assigned Bach's Weimar years (1708-1717) and the fantasia to his time in Köthen (1717-1723, but, if the audition theory is correct, not later than 1720).
The fantasia opens spaciously and in recitative-like style, but as it unfolds Bach finds room for dense passages in upper-voice imitation. There are five more or less balanced sections to this fantasy; intensely dramatic sections are interwoven with quieter, more even passages. The wide tonal scope of the fantasia has been a subject of fascination for two centuries of musicians: just when some kind of harmonic stability seems to arrive, Bach shoots off on a mock-improvised cadenza that jolts the music into a whole new pitch realm. Thus the fantasia both lives up to its name and contains quite a bit of contrapuntal rigor, and then, on top of that, more than one worthy mind has deemed the fugue to be Bach's ultimate accomplishment in the field of organ counterpoint. The task of selecting a king from that noble crowd, however, is not an enviable one. Though it provides the sense of a stable answer to the fantasia in its predominantly even sixteenth note rhythms, it is similarly ambitious harmonically: Bach makes two revolutions through the entire circle of fifths. The fugue makes a fine contrast with the later music of the fantasia while nevertheless seeming of a piece with it.

J.S. Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A minor for organ, BWV 543 (an alternate version is numbered BWV 543a) is probably a product of his years as court organist to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar (1708-1717). It is the final incarnation of music first tried out by Bach in the harpsichord Fugue in A minor, BWV 944, of 1708 or earlier. Not as famous as some other Bach organ works, it is the equal of the best of them. The prelude is a massive, dramatic thing with a weighty, chromatically descending subject, made all the weightier when it is thrust into the pedals midway through the piece. A master organist can shape this into one of the most compelling of all Bach's fugue introductions. At the end of the fugue itself there is an electrifying passage of freewheeling, utterly unfugal organ virtuosity. Some observers contend that the chromatic, toccata-like prelude bears the marks of Bach's early, north German-influenced style, while the fugue could be a later product of his maturity. It was not uncommon for Bach to adapt or join together previously composed music to form new pieces.



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