BWV 550

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Prelude and fugue in G major

BWV 550 performed by Matthias Havinga
St Bavo's Church, Haarlem

"The sound should come bouncing into the church and sweep you along."


This piece requires pedal – and in no small measure!

In some of the earliest sources for this exuberant Prelude and fugue, the first part is described as a “praeludio in G-dur con pedal” or a “praeludio pedaliter”. In itself, there is nothing unusual about the use of pedals (the ‘keys’ of the organ operated by the feet) in an organ piece in Bach’s day. So at first sight, the description appears to be just a useful eighteenth-century indication (NB: can only be played on an organ with pedals!). But twelve bars into the piece, there is an aha-erlebnis; you hear a long, lively pedal solo, which not only requires more than a second-rate village organist, but also more than a second-rate village organ. The range of the solo covers more than two octaves (from low C to high D), which was definitely not the norm at the time! The organ of the Cathedral of Saint Bavo, in Haarlem, has a pedal with this range. It has two ‘pedal towers’, with pipes measuring almost 11 metres in length. So it was logical that organist Matthias Havinga should choose this instrument on which to play the piece.

In the rest of the piece, both in the prelude and the fugue, the feet play a role equal to the hands. The pedal is used to its full capacity throughout the piece. There is even one note that is higher than the highest note of the solo. The theme of the fugue is as exuberant as that of the prelude, and is based on similar motifs. With no over-complicated excursions to far-flung keys, the fugue proceeds towards its ending like a lively Baroque perpetuum mobile. And just before the ending, the feet (with the hands in their wake) go one last time from low to high and back again over the pedals. Pedaliter indeed – point taken!


Prelude and fugue in G major

organ work



Cast & Crew

release date 25 August 2017
recording date 21 September 2016
Location St Bavo's Church, Haarlem
Organist Matthias Havinga
Organ Christian Müller, 1738
Director Bas Wielenga
Music recording, edit and mix 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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