All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society
Toccata in E minor
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.
- Toccata in E minor
- keyboard work
- Seven toccatas
- ca. 1710
Cast & Crew
|Release date||11 January 2019|
|Recording date||23 March 2017|
|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|