BWV 545

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Prelude and fugue in C major

BWV 545 performed by Bart Jacobs
St.-Bavokerk, Haarlem

"It is wonderful to play! There is this tremendous dynamic; you hear the cello and double bass entering, as in an orchestra."


This is an early work that has undergone a lot of tinkering.

The piece starts off with great self-assurance. With hops, steps and jumps, the pedal goes to a throbbing low C three times, while the right hand builds up a full chord straight away. And what follows is also decisive. The equally self-assured fugue is constructed firmly on the key of C major, which is never really called into question.

Yet all is not as self-evident as it sounds, as there is a whole maze of versions of this piece, with big and small differences. And nearly all of them originated in the eighteenth century. Precisely that characteristic start and finish of the prelude - the version that Bart Jacobs is playing here - is missing in some of the sources. The assumption is that Bach wrote the piece as a young organist, maybe as early as his Arnstadt or Mühlhausen days. 

If you think there is a bit too much C major, you are not the only one. In some eighteenth-century manuscripts, a slow middle section in A minor from Sonata no. 5 in C major, BWV 529, has been placed in between the prelude and fugue. And sometimes it differs even more radically. One English manuscript gives a version in B-flat major “by the late Mr John Robinson” (1682-1762), organist of Westminster Abbey. In between the prelude and fugue, he puts a version of the final section of the Gamba sonata no. 3, BWV 1029, which in turn is sandwiched between two short intermezzos. According to his contemporary Charles Burney, Robinson was “regarded as one of the best performers on keyed instruments of the time”, and he was “attended by great crowds, wherever he performed”. So self-assured music will find its way from a small provincial town in Germany to the great Westminster Abbey.


Prelude and fugue in C major

organ work

early work (before 1717?)


Special notes
There are several versions of this piece. The original version has not survived.

Cast & Crew

Release date 27 January 2017
Recording date 22 September 2016
Location St Bavo's Church, Haarlem
Organist Bart Jacobs
Organ Christian Müller, 1738
Director Bas Wielenga
Music recording Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
Music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Bas Wielenga, Jeroen Simons
Lights Gregoor van de Kamp
Producer Jessie Verbrugh
Interview Onno van Ameijde

Vocal Texts




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