BWV 906

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Fantasia and fugue in C minor

BWV 906 performed by Masato Suzuki
Voorburg, the Netherlands

"If you're reading Bach's own handwriting in music you feel the energy he put into it while writing."

Bordering on the extreme

Bach ventures into the style of the younger generation.

Johann Sebastian was not the only composer in the family. If this Fantasia and fugue in C minor had not survived in two manuscripts in Bach’s own handwriting, it might have been attributed to one of his composer sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel or Wilhelm Friedemann. The title Fantasia, the use of triplets and the rather fitful yet airy character are all hallmarks of the empfindsame (sensitive) style. And this style is found much more often in the works of Bach’s sons than in those he wrote himself. The way the hands cross over one another is also something that regularly appears in the work of both sons. They picked up all sorts of things as teenagers at home.

The fugue is a different matter altogether. Whereas the chromaticism in the fantasia consisted of ornamenting the melody, it borders on the extreme in the structure of the fugue. And in the other parts, too, Bach tries not to neatly channel the chromaticism. He continually uses strange diminished and augmented chords, sometimes adding extra dissonants as well. The whole becomes a sort of harmonic distorting mirror, as if a normal fugue has gone off the rails.

Then suddenly everything changes! The fast notes return from nowhere and a new theme appears. There are even hand crossovers, a technique Bach seldom used in fugues. And just as the chromatic fugue theme returns and Bach seems to be clarifying matters, the manuscript ends abruptly in the middle of a page, leaving us rather confused with a musical question mark.


Fantasia and fugue in C minor

keyboard work



The fugue is unfinished – only the first 48 bars have been handed down.

Cast & Crew

Release date 30 September 2016
Recording date 3 December 2015
Location Voorburg
Harpsichordist Masato Suzuki
Harpsichord Willem Kroesbergen, Utrecht 1987 after J. Couchet
Camera Gijs Besseling
Director Jan Van den Bossche, Hanna Schreuders
interview Gijs Besseling
subtitles Geert van Bremen, Atsuko Kohashi

Vocal Texts




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