Johann Sebastian Bach

Toccata and Fugue, for organ in D minor ("Dorian"), BWV 538 (BC J38)

    Description by John Palmer

    According to the obituary printed after his death, Johann Sebastian Bach composed most of his organ works in Weimar, where he worked between 1708 and 1717. This is not surprising, since after his appointment at Weimar his duties did not involve the composition of works for the organ. His years as organist there witnessed a tremendous development in his compositional style, particularly in the realm of freely composed preludes and fugues.

    Scholars believe Bach began this work while in Weimar, and completed it probably in 1712-1723. Bach's omission of the B flat from the key signature (it appears instead as an accidental) has prompted the nickname "Dorian," but it is clearly minor, not truly Dorian. The lively toccata is, as one would expect, a great vehicle for the demonstration of digital dexterity, but its square rhythms mark it as an early work. Bach seems to have been influenced by the north German school in his use of two manuals for the toccata. The fugue is the real prize of this work; its weight makes the preceding toccata seem superfluous. Striking stylistic contrasts abound in the fugue, with an Italianate, vocal-style subject and numerous repeated chords, another nod to the north German school. At 222 measures, it is one of the composer's longest fugues, over half of it being dedicated to intense episodic development. In the exposition, we hear four entries of the subject, a seven-measure, syncopated theme, each paired with one of two countersubjects. A counter-exposition follows, reversing the order of the entries, placing the dominant-level answers before the tonic entries as the counterpoint loosens a bit. The four entries in the developmental segment, the first and third of which initiate brief canons, explore various harmonies. In the recapitulation, three more entries also introduce canons and, as with earlier subject entries, maintain a dense contrapuntal structure. With one exception, episodes are not built on new material, but derive from a canonic sequence that follows the first answer in the exposition. These episodes also are canonic, but the nature of the material makes the passages sound less contrapuntal than the subject entries and emphasizes cross rhythms. Even after the final entry, with its full pedal, Bach begins another episode, this one functioning as a coda.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Toccata
    2. Fugue

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2019
    Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
    19075915582
    2018
    Decca
    2018
    Piano Classics
    PCL 10139
    2018
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD 808
    2017
    Rondeau
    ROP 6140
    2017
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 16010
    2017
    Gothic Records
    G 49304
    2016
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    95310BR
    2016
    Lawo Classics
    LWC 1087
    2016
    Onclassical
    OC 150B
    2016
    Brilliant Classics
    95166BR
    2016
    La Dolce Volta
    LDV 201
    2016
    RCA Red Seal
    88985321742
    2015
    Ligia
    LIDI 0104274
    2015
    Brilliant Classics
    94981BR
    2015
    MDG
    MDGSC 9491893
    2015
    Prestare
    ZWF 3331568
    2015
    ZYX Classics
    CLA 101892
    2014
    Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 13053
    2013
    TYX Art
    TXA 12015
    2012
    EtCetera Records
    ETC 1442
    2012
    Brilliant Classics
    94380
    2012
    Rewind
    REW 500
    2012
    Tactus
    TC 580001
    2012
    MDG / Zebralution
    2011
    Erato
    2564676018
    2011
    Antes Edition / Zebralution
    2010
    Documents
    233041
    2010
    Brilliant Classics
    94050
    2010
    Dorian
    92104
    2010
    Hyperion
    64409
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4778628
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    477 862-8
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    Apex
    256467940
    2010
    Hyperion
    CDA 30004
    2010
    Regis Records
    1317
    2010
    Regent
    301
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    ZYX Classics
    1023
    2009
    Raven
    908
    2009
    Ricercar
    289
    2009
    Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009
    Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009
    EMI Classics
    2009
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099926428
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Ramée
    0903
    2009
    Ricercar
    276
    2009
    Calliope
    5718
    2009
    X5 Music Group
    14359
    2008
    ZYX Music
    10316
    2008
    Philips
    464988
    2008
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    93668
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4777521
    2008
    Maestro Music
    4696560
    2008
    EMI Music Distribution
    09393
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4694202
    2007
    Musical Concepts
    191
    2007
    Analekta
    24022-43
    2007
    Elatus
    2007
    Priory Records
    867
    2007
    Cascade Records
    2100
    2007
    Erato
    4699028
    2006
    Brilliant Classics
    93102
    2006
    Brilliant Classics
    99697
    2006
    Raven
    875
    2006
    Alba
    209
    2006
    Novalis
    150180
    2006
    Loft Recordings
    1080
    2005
    Regis Records
    2042
    2005
    Hyperion
    CDA67506
    2005
    Arsis
    402
    2005
    Interdisc Trading
    97440
    2005
    Direct Source
    4438
    2004
    Sony Classical
    92769
    2004
    Archipel
    84
    2004
    Archiv Produktion
    000185602
    2004
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    92391
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000310102
    2003
    Art & Music
    1539/58
    2003
    Sony Music Distribution
    87983
    2003
    Direct Source
    1654
    2003
    Pro Organo
    7138
    2002
    CBC Records
    2009
    2002
    Hyperion
    44121/36
    2001
    Loft Recordings
    1023
    2001
    Calcante Recordings
    41
    2001
    Ornament
    11445
    2001
    Motette
    50721
    2001
    CPO
    999754
    2001
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469616
    2001
    Various Artists
    Direct Source / Direct Source Special
    3378
    2001
    Legacy
    CJH005
    2000
    Kleos Classics
    5107
    2000
    Harmonia Mundi
    907249
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution
    73878
    2000
    Archiv Produktion
    463712
    2000
    Haenssler
    92092
    2000
    Cedille Records
    5003
    2000
    Raven
    470
    2000
    Simax
    1152
    1999
    Teldec
    25705
    1999
    Teldec
    25704
    1999
    Harmonia Mundi
    290772
    1999
    Various Artists
    Teldec
    3984-25713-2
    1999
    Valois
    4425
    1999
    Quicksilva
    6231
    1999
    Archiv Produktion
    419904
    1999
    Gothic Records
    49104
    1999
    Berlin Classics
    9367
    1999
    Lyrichord
    6005
    1998
    JAV Recordings
    JAV103
    1998
    Capriccio Records
    10720
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    453 064-2GTA2
    1997
    Point Classics
    265032
    1997
    Par Excellence/St. Clair
    99342
    1997
    Naxos
    414014
    1997
    BX
    98502
    1997
    Gothic Records
    49093
    1996
    Cedille Records
    6
    1996
    Teldec
    97901
    1996
    Archiv Produktion
    447292
    1996
    Par Excellence/St. Clair
    24362
    1996
    BIS
    123/125
    1995
    London
    443485
    1995
    Vox
    5100
    1995
    Naxos
    553150
    1995
    London
    444410
    1995
    Novalis
    150130
    1995
    Sony Music Distribution
    23251
    1994
    Disques Pierre Verany
    730001
    1994
    Novalis
    150036
    1994
    Erato
    96358
    1994
    Erato
    96719
    1994
    Summit Records
    101
    1993
    Dorian
    90149
    1992
    Telarc Distribution
    CD80286
    1992
    Moss Music Group
    5059
    1990
    Hyperion
    66434
    1988
    CBS Records
    42643
    1986
    Newport Classic
    60001
    1984
    Archiv Produktion
    410999
    Priory Records
    267
    Various Artists
    Brilliant
    93102-VOL6
    Brilliant
    99706
    Brilliant
    99706/14
    Brilliant
    93102/152
    Analekta
    4027
    Digital Concerto
    615
    Powder Classics
    5056
    Erato
    91931
    Challenge Records
    72033
    Deutsche Grammophon
    403302
    Ligia
    104069/70
    Teldec
    Ligia
    104081
    EMI Music Distribution
    Archiv Produktion
    463713
    London
    421337
    Philips
    420860
    Musique d'Or
    1014
    Hyperion
    44124
    Disques Pierre Verany
    785021
    Interdisc Trading
    97440/3
    Brilliant
    92391/18
    Brilliant Classics
    93668/18
    Deutsche Schallplatten
    1056
    Newport Classic
    60090
    Archiv Produktion
    413638
    Philips
    4163632
    Cascade Records
    2133
    Cascade Records
    2136
    Cascade Records
    2105
    Vox
    5059
    Priory Records
    523
    Unison
    80012