All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Toccata in d minor

BWV 913 performed by Siebe Henstra
Felix Meritis, Amsterdam

Although the original manuscript has been lost, we do have an old edition from 1801. Siebe Henstra takes you along on his quest for Bach’s notes.

Capricious and reckless

Buxtehude inspired Bach to seek out the limits of his musical possibilities.

Virtuoso, inventive and moving, but also capricious to the point of recklessness. This is how you could describe this work by Bach, which may be his earliest toccata for harpsichord. Although no autograph has survived, the work must have been composed shortly after Bach’s return from a journey to Lübeck. He had heard the famous Buxtehude playing there and was so impressed that he stayed longer than the couple of weeks’ leave his employer had given him. So on his return at the beginning of 1706, he got a severe reprimand from the church council in Arnstadt.

Bach had to face a whole tirade of complaints. The many curious variationes in his chorale preludes and strange notes he incorporated in them confused the congregation time and time again. And when he was accused of playing preludes that were too long, he responded defiantly by playing them far too short. All of which led to disgraceful hilarity among the choir pupils in the organ gallery.

When listening to this harpsichord toccata, however, one thing is crystal clear. These reprimands certainly did nothing to diminish Bach’s tendency to seek out the limits of his musical possibilities and those of his audiences. On the contrary, he gives free rein to his inspiration for over twelve minutes. An increasingly adventurous prelude gives rise to two ingenious fugues, which he interrupts with a languorous adagio. It must have been around this time that Bach started to realise that he needed to shake off more than just a compositional straitjacket if he wanted to develop further. A year later, he saw his opportunity and successfully applied for the post of organist at Blasiuskirche in Mühlhausen.


BWV
913

Title
Toccata in d minor

Genre
keyboard work

Year
1706?

city
Arnstadt

Special notes
There are two versions. The eldest was published in 1801.

Cast & Crew

release date 6 November 2015
recording date 19 May 2015
Location Felix Meritis, Amsterdam
harpsichord Titus Crijnen (1992) after Johannes Ruckers, 1638
harpsichordist Siebe Henstra
Film director and editor Lucas van Woerkum
MUSIC RECORDING PRODUCERS Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
CAMERA Robert Berger, Simon Aarden, Maarten van Rossem
GAFFER Zen Bloot, Patrick Galvin
camera assistant Uriel Matahelumual
CONCERT production Erik van Lith
Producer Jessie Verbrugh
interview Onno van Ameijde
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Bach fund of the Netherlands Bach Society, Felix Meritis

Vocal Texts

Original

Translation

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