Johann Sebastian Bach

Fantasia and Fugue, for organ in G minor ("Great"), BWV 542 (BC J42, 57, 67)

    Description by Blair Johnston

    Evidence suggests that J.S. Bach completed and revised the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor for organ, BWV 542 (the "Great" G minor, as opposed to BWV 578, the "Little" G minor), as an audition for an organist position in Hamburg in 1720. Bach didn't get the job, but, happily enough, posterity did get the piece; generations of organists since then have considered it one of their repertoire's crown jewels. The two parts of BWV 542 (the fantasia -- sometimes titled Prelude instead -- and the fugue) are thought to have been composed separately: the fugue is assigned Bach's Weimar years (1708-1717) and the fantasia to his time in Cöthen (1717-1723, but, if the audition theory is correct, not later than 1720).

    The fantasia opens spaciously and in recitative-like style, but as it unfolds Bach finds room for dense passages in upper-voice imitation. There are five more or less balanced sections to this fantasy; intensely dramatic sections are interwoven with quieter, more even passages. The wide tonal scope of the fantasia has been a subject of fascination for two centuries of musicians: just when some kind of harmonic stability seems to arrive, Bach shoots off on a mock-improvised cadenza that jolts the music into a whole new pitch realm. Thus the fantasia both lives up to its name and contains quite a bit of contrapuntal rigor, and then, on top of that, more than one worthy mind has deemed the fugue to be Bach's ultimate accomplishment in the field of organ counterpoint. The task of selecting a king from that noble crowd, however, is not an enviable one. Though it provides the sense of a stable answer to the fantasia in its predominantly even sixteenth note rhythms, it is similarly ambitious harmonically: Bach makes two revolutions through the entire circle of fifths. The fugue makes a fine contrast with the later music of the fantasia while nevertheless seeming of a piece with it

    Parts/Movements

    1. Fantasia
    2. Fugue

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2019
    La Dolce Volta
    LDV 69
    2019
    La Dolce Volta
    LDV 69D
    2019
    Querstand
    VKJK 1716
    2018
    Alpha
    343
    2018
    Decca
    2018
    MDG
    MDG 3160127
    2018
    Rondeau / Rondeau Productions
    ROP 614546
    2018
    Raven Records
    OAR 141
    2017
    Azica Records
    ACD 71314
    2017
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD 803
    2017
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 16010
    2017
    Summit Records
    DCD 704
    2016
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    95310BR
    2016
    Exton
    83
    2016
    Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution
    88875032272
    2016
    Onclassical
    OC 150B
    2016
    Brilliant Classics
    95166BR
    2016
    La Dolce Volta
    LDV 201
    2016
    British Military Music Archive
    BMMACG 1614
    2015
    Ligia
    LIDI 0104274
    2015
    K-Tel
    136437
    2015
    MSR Classics
    MS 1444
    2015
    Coro
    COR 16132
    2015
    Prestare
    ZWF 3331567
    2014
    LIR Classics
    LIR 027
    2014
    Brilliant Classics
    94792
    2014
    MDG
    2014
    Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 13053
    2014
    Es-Dur
    ES 2050
    2014
    Raven Records
    OAR 947
    2013
    Rondeau / Rondeau Productions
    ROP 6073
    2013
    The Gift of Music
    CCLCDG 1273
    2013
    Dynamic
    CDS 738
    2013
    Brilliant Classics
    94456
    2013
    Regent
    REGCD 398
    2012
    Zig Zag Territoires
    ZIG 305
    2012
    Rewind
    REW 500
    2012
    Raven / Raven Records
    OAR 931
    2011
    X5
    X5CD 113
    2011
    Auris Subtilis / Avi-Music
    7771011
    2011
    Musica Rediviva
    MRCD 016
    2011
    Claves
    501008
    2011
    Red Bus Classical
    RCLAS 002
    2011
    MDG
    MDG 60617082
    2011
    Aeon
    AECD1101
    2011
    ICA Classics
    5008
    2011
    Erato
    2564676018
    2011
    Regent
    REGCD 307
    2010
    Documents
    233041
    2010
    Brilliant Classics
    94050
    2010
    Dorian
    92104
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4778628
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    477 862-8
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    Regent
    309
    2010
    Titanic
    273
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2009
    Ricercar
    289
    2009
    Brilliant Classics
    93240
    2009
    EMI Classics
    2009
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099926428
    2009
    Ricercar
    276
    2009
    Calliope
    5718
    2009
    Azica Records
    71248
    2009
    Membran
    231755
    2009
    Various Artists
    Fono Forum
    8553129
    2009
    Carus
    83419
    2009
    MSR Classics
    1271
    2008
    Marquis Records
    81375
    2008
    Philips
    464988
    2008
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    93668
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4777521
    2008
    Gothic Records
    49260
    2008
    Motette
    12521
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4694202
    2008
    Various Artists
    Brilliant
    93160
    2008
    Regent
    193
    2008
    Fagott Gold
    39045
    2008
    Herald Records
    221
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    423779
    2008
    EMI Classics
    351878
    2007
    Musical Concepts
    191
    2007
    BIS
    1527/28
    2007
    Analekta
    24022-43
    2007
    Haenssler
    98504
    2007
    Novalis
    150185
    2007
    Oehms Classics
    573
    2007
    Various Artists
    Naïve
    V 5101
    2007
    Apex
    2007
    Cascade Records
    2100
    2007
    Erato
    4699028
    2007
    K&K Verlagsanstalt
    41
    2007
    Fagott Records
    9910
    2006
    Brilliant Classics
    99697
    2006
    Brilliant Classics
    93102
    2006
    Analekta
    3096
    2006
    Hyperion
    22062
    2006
    Raven
    875
    2006
    Alba
    209
    2006
    Motette
    13361
    2006
    Brass Classics
    3003
    2006
    Nosag Records
    2098
    2006
    Edition HERA
    2114
    2006
    Arbiter
    ARBITER146
    2006
    Reference Recordings
    107
    2005
    Regis Records
    2042
    2005
    Biddulph Recordings
    010
    2005
    Interdisc Trading
    97440
    2005
    Chandos
    CHAN10282
    2005
    SeeMusicDVD
    41
    2004
    Various Artists
    Delta Distribution
    40028
    2004
    Telarc Distribution
    80637
    2004
    Archipel
    84
    2004
    EMI Classics
    75215
    2004
    Archiv Produktion
    000185602
    2004
    Chandos
    5030
    2004
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    92391
    2004
    Ifo
    86
    2004
    JAV Recordings
    JAV145
    2003
    Art & Music
    1539/58
    2003
    Tim
    220828
    2003
    Decca
    2803
    2003
    Pro Organo
    7167
    2002
    Disques Pierre Verany
    710811
    2002
    Haenssler
    94020
    2002
    Teldec
    81130
    2002
    Sony Classical
    89955
    2002
    Delta Distribution
    14585
    2002
    Hyperion
    44121/36
    2001
    Ornament
    11449
    2001
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469616
    2001
    Pro Organo
    7070
    2001
    Motette
    60341
    2000
    Various Artists
    Orfeo D'Or
    6
    2000
    Kleos Classics
    5107
    2000
    Harmonia Mundi
    295771
    2000
    Archiv Produktion
    463712
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution
    73878
    2000
    Motette
    12281
    2000
    RS
    29
    2000
    Danacord
    432
    2000
    Priory Records
    685
    2000
    Decca
    1578932
    1999
    Raven
    440
    1999
    Teldec
    25705
    1999
    Teldec
    25704
    1999
    Various Artists
    Capriccio Records
    492542
    1999
    Aura Classics
    0134
    1999
    Harmonia Mundi
    290772
    1999
    London
    455291
    1999
    Harmonia Mundi
    190771
    1999
    Various Artists
    Teldec
    3984-25713-2
    1999
    Opus 111
    OP 10001
    1999
    Valois
    4425
    1999
    Berlin Classics
    0093642
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243573568
    1999
    Seraphim Classics
    1999
    Archiv Produktion
    419904
    1999
    Haenssler
    92093
    1999
    Berlin Classics
    0094102
    1998
    Bach Guild
    2005
    1998
    Haenssler
    98182
    1998
    Pro Piano
    224513
    1997
    Grammofono 2000
    78692
    1997
    Helicon Records
    1010
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453 064-2GTA2
    1997
    Point Classics
    265031
    1997
    Carlton Classics
    00402
    1997
    EMI Music Distribution
    4760
    1996
    Nimbus
    NI8808
    1996
    Cedille Records
    12
    1996
    Supraphon
    3015
    1995
    Telarc Distribution
    80316
    1995
    London
    443485
    1995
    Teldec
    94458
    1995
    Naxos
    505024
    1995
    London
    444410
    1995
    Nimbus
    5280
    1995
    EMI Music Distribution
    CD-CFPSD4760
    1995
    Gallo
    453
    1995
    Raven
    250
    1995
    Novalis
    150130
    1995
    Capriccio Records
    10035
    1995
    Gothic Records
    49068
    1995
    Madacy
    9102
    1995
    Madacy
    56432
    1994
    Madacy
    1038
    1994
    Naxos
    550652
    1994
    Erato
    96358
    1994
    Erato
    96745
    1994
    BIS
    308
    1994
    Madacy
    5438
    1994
    Various Artists
    Teldec
    4509-94891-2
    1993
    Ermitage
    135
    1993
    Isis Records
    002
    1993
    Novalis
    150005
    1993
    Deutsche Grammophon
    435381
    1993
    Hyperion
    CDA66791/2
    1993
    Teldec
    4509-92176-2
    1993
    Dorian
    90111
    1992
    Harmonia Mundi
    390771
    1992
    Chandos
    0506
    1992
    Moss Music Group / Vox
    5013
    1992
    Opus 111
    519115
    1991
    Sony Music Distribution
    46551
    1990
    Delos
    3048
    1990
    Telarc Distribution
    80049
    1990
    Laserlight
    507
    1990
    Deutsche Grammophon
    415442
    1987
    Deutsche Grammophon
    1984
    Erato
    2292-45188-2
    1983
    Telarc Distribution
    80049
    TOCCATA
    Magic Talent
    48045
    Pearl
    9959
    Various Artists
    Brilliant
    93102-VOL6
    Brilliant
    99706
    Brilliant
    93102/142
    Brilliant
    99706/4
    Arkay Records
    6170
    Mirabilis
    2
    Analekta
    4026
    Denon Records
    7039
    Calliope
    9799
    REM
    311144
    Laserlight
    14836
    Madacy
    56434
    Erato
    91931
    Cascade Records
    2104
    Brilliant Classics
    93668/17
    Fleur de Lis
    0101
    Interdisc Trading
    97440/1
    Capriccio Records
    492634
    Brilliant
    92391/17
    Deutsche Grammophon
    403302
    Brilliant
    93160/6
    Ligia
    104069/70
    Naxos
    8550685
    Hyperion
    44122
    CBS Records
    42648
    Ligia
    104081
    EMI Music Distribution
    London
    421337
    Archiv Produktion
    463713
    Erato
    88004
    Apex
    41373
    RCA
    60785
    Vox
    5013
    Calig
    50891
    Nickson
    1002
    Nils Tykesson
    NTC 001
    Salzburger Festspiele
    6
    Amphion
    136
    Priory Records
    411
    EMI Music Distribution
    64321
    Calliope
    9718
    Valois
    4410
    Tim
    220829
    Priory Records
    523
    Ricercar
    92001
    Madacy
    4575
    GM Recordings
    20642
    Denon Records
    8009
    Mark Custom Recording
    3143
    BBC Music Magazine
    71