BWV 579

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Fugue in B minor 'Fugue on a theme by Corelli'

BWV 579 performed by Leo van Doeselaar
St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg

"Bach held Corelli in high esteem. He took a Vivace from the second movement of his Sonata Opus 3 no. 4 and set it for organ, with a very independent pedal part."

I can do better!

Bach added a German touch to Corelli.

According to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, self-study and reflection were the methods used by his father in his development as a composer of fugues. Careful study of the work of famous contemporaries, in particular, advanced his skills. Corelli’s Sonate da Chiesa a Tre for two violins and continuo, from 1689, is a good example. We do not know when Bach first saw this music, which was printed in Modena in 1689. Neither do we know when he used the second movement of the fourth sonata for a new composition. But we can well imagine that this fugue is the result of the aforementioned self-study and reflection.

After all, Bach did not only use the two themes from this Vivace, as suggested by the title Thema con Suggeto Sigre. Corelli elabor, but actually ‘rewrote’, if not ‘improved’ the fast movement by lengthening it considerably, adding a fourth part and greatly elaborating the fugal character. The latter, in particular, would have been a challenge for him, as Corelli treated his theme and counter-theme in a rather unorthodox way. Bach clearly sought possibilities to align Corelli’s joie de vivre with the strict rules of German organ music.

We can assume that he was not dissatisfied with the results of his Corelli fugue. In any case, the tiny ‘coda’ at the end seems to mean something like: ‘ I’d put it...’ Leo van Doeselaar opted to play this unexpected ending very softly, as he explains in the interview.


Fugue in B minor

Fugue on a theme by Corelli

organ work

before 1710?


Special notes
The theme of this fugue is taken from the Sonate da Chiesa opus 3 no. 4 by Corelli (1689).

Cast & Crew

Release Date 20 May 2016
Recording Date 21 October 2014
LOCATION St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg
ORGANIST Leo van Doeselaar
organ Various builders between the 15th and 19th century. Reconstruction: Flentrop 2013.
Producer Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Jan Van den Bossche
Director of photography Sal Kroonenberg
CAMERA ASSISTANTS Andreas Grotevent, Lucas Lütz
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Vadim Dukart, Andreas Fischer

Vocal Texts




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