Johann Sebastian Bach

Prelude and Fugue, for organ in C minor, BWV 546 (BC J12, 53, 69)

    Description by Blair Johnston

    While the interval between the composition of the Prelude and of the Fugue from J.S. Bach's Prelude and Fugue for organ in C minor, BWV 546 may not be as great as the interval between the composition of the Prelude and the Fugue from BWV 562 (the Prelude of that work having likely been written sometime during the 1710s but the Fugue possibly as late as 1745), they are nevertheless hardly temporal bedfellows. The Fugue of BWV 546 seems to be the earlier of the two halves (it is a work from Bach's Weimar days [1708 - 1717]), while the Prelude came later (from his Leipzig days, 1723 and following). Bach's reasons for choosing to return to a finished, self-standing composition like the Fugue of BWV 546 so many years after and then to add to it may well have been ones of a purely internal nature, though one can't omit the possibility that some practical requirement, a pressing need for a fresh prelude and fugue during a particularly busy time, induced him to take up an old fugue and provide it with a new introductory piece. After so long, it can never be known; but one can safely proclaim that the Prelude is easily one of Bach's most imposing organ preludes.

    The Prelude of BWV 546 spans a full 144 bars. It presses forth with great urgency after a stoic hand-against-hand incipit gesture and is soon filled with running triplets, here scalar, there arpeggiated. The opening gesture returns twice, once in the minor dominant after about 40 bars and again in the tonic C minor to usher in the final bars of the piece. The fugue is a five-voice one (though the five voices are heard all together only in the exposition of the fugue and at the very end, where, as per tradition, the texture blossoms even further, in this case to a final eight-voice cadence) and is built from a subject that can hardly restrain its urge to leap up by the interval of a third; it is all Bach can do to ensure that a few stepwise motions find their way into this otherwise leap-infested thought.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Prelude
    2. Fugue

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Decca
    2018 Lawo Classics LWC 1153
    2018 Oehms Classics OC 465
    2018 Rondeau ROP 614546
    2018 Danacord DACOCD 793794
    2016 Signum Classics SIGCD 800
    2015 MSR Classics MS 1444
    2015 Dux Records DUX 1116
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95005BR
    2013 Rondeau / Rondeau Productions ROP 6073
    2013 Société Métropolitaine Du Disque SBL 2161
    2013 Melodiya MYD 1002109
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94380
    2012 Sony Classical 5463882
    2011 Kevin Clarke
    2011 MDG MDG 60617082
    2011 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH11025
    2011 Querstand VKJK 1101
    2011 Erato 2564676018
    2011 Regent REGCD 308
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778628
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 477 862-8
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Ricercar 289
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099926428
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 MSR Classics 1312
    2009 JAV Recordings JAV174
    2009 Denon Records
    2008 Hungaroton 32589
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4694202
    2007 Musical Concepts 191
    2007 BIS 1527/28
    2007 Analekta 24022-43
    2007 Aeolus Music 10111
    2007 HDC 40303
    2007 Melodiya MELCD 1001253
    2007 Erato 4699028
    2006 Brilliant Classics 99697
    2006 Brilliant Classics 93102
    2006 Hyperion 22062
    2006 Raven 875
    2006 Novalis 150180
    2006 Psallite 60601
    2005 Interdisc Trading 97440
    2004 Archiv Produktion 000185602
    2004 High Definition Classics 047
    2003 Art & Music 1539/58
    2003 Calliope 3713/4
    2003 Cybele 30202
    2003 Ricercar 212
    2002 Haenssler 94020
    2002 Challenge Classics 72047
    2002 Gothic Records 49202
    2002 Hyperion 44121/36
    2000 Kleos Classics 5107
    2000 Pro Musica 9038
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 73878
    2000 Archiv Produktion 463712
    2000 Motette 12421
    1999 Teldec 25705
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 290772
    1999 Teldec 3984-25713-2
    1999 Valois 4425
    1999 Berlin Classics 0093662
    1999 CPO 999664
    1999 Haenssler 92098
    1999 Nimbus 5606
    1999 Archiv Produktion 419904
    1999 Pearl 9863
    1998 Haenssler 98182
    1998 Raven 400
    1997 Sony Music Distribution 63185
    1995 BIS 193
    1995 Telarc Distribution 80316
    1995 Naxos 505024
    1995 Vox 5100
    1995 London 444410
    1995 Novalis 150130
    1994 BIS 445
    1994 Novalis 150020
    1994 Erato 96725
    1994 Naxos 550652
    1994 Erato 96358
    1993 Pearl 9992
    1993 Hyperion CDA66791/2
    1992 Chandos 501
    1986 Telarc Distribution 80127
    1986 Newport Classic 60002
    Calig 50908
    Magic Talent 48039
    Brilliant 93102-VOL6
    Brilliant 99706
    Brilliant 93102/155
    Brilliant 99706/17
    Arkay Records 6170
    Analekta 4028
    Edelweiss Records 1030
    Deutsche Grammophon 403302
    Excelsior Recordings 055
    Capriccio Records 10038
    Supraphon 110626
    Interdisc Trading 97440/2
    Erato 91702
    Naxos 8550685
    Hyperion 44123
    CBS Records 42647
    Ligia 104081
    EMI Music Distribution
    Archiv Produktion 463715
    Ligia 104077/80
    Calig 50831
    CBS Records 45807
    Rainbow Media OMP 5669