All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Toccata in E minor

BWV 914 performed by Bart Jacobs
at home in Eikevliet, Belgium

"This toccata was influenced by some violinistic themes from the Italian masters."

World champion fugue writer

A pedal motif that is not possible for organ – and a mysterious fugue.

The seven ‘manualiter’ toccatas (played only with the hands) belong to Bach’s earlier works and clearly echo the North-German keyboard school of his upbringing. The Toccata in E minor is the shortest of them and is clearly structured in four parts that flow more or less seamlessly into one another, as was usual in seventeenth-century keyboard music.

 The short and relatively simple Prelude opens with a striking motif that appears to be written for a pedal. Yet this is not the case, according to harpsichordist Bart Jacobs, as the highest note cannot be played on an organ pedal. An elegant double fugue is followed by a capricious Adagio, which is rather reminiscent of a recitative.

The Toccata ends with a second, more brilliant fugue, which bears a strong resemblance to an anonymous piece in the library of the Naples Conservatory of Music. It poses a dilemma for musicologists. Although Bach often arranged Italian concertos and also borrowed the occasional fugue theme from the Italians, he never adopted a whole fugue. But maybe it was the other way around and the anonymous Italian copied the fugue from Bach, or – as a last resort – both composers based their piece on a lost original. We will probably never know for certain. Incidentally, Bach’s version of the fugue is ‘better’, but that is hardly surprising from the world champion fugue writer.


BWV
914

Title
Toccata in E minor

Genre
keyboard work

Series
Seven toccatas

Year
ca. 1710

Cast & Crew

Release date 11 January 2019
Recording date 23 March 2017
Location Eikevliet, Belgium
Harpsichordist Bart Jacobs
Harpsichord Andreas Kilström (2009) after I. Couchet, Antwerp (about 1650)
Director Jan van den Bossche, Hanna Schreuders
Music recording Guido Tichelman
Camera and interview Gijs Besseling
Editing Augustine Huijsser
Production Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts

Original

Translation

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