Sonata no. 2 in C minor

Sonata no. 2 in C minor

BWV 526 performed by Bernard Winsemius
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • Vivace
  • Largo
  • Allegro

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Concerto for a one-man band

All the typical elements of a solo concerto bundled into a new genre

Seated at his instrument, the organist may have the means at his disposal – but does he also have the mastery? This is a pertinent question in the case of Bach’s demanding organ sonatas, with their three fully autonomous parts in two keyboards and pedal. This second sonata, which comes first in one of the sources, is the model for numbers 5 and 6: an Allegro opening with alternating tutti and solo passages, and a closing fugue – here with two themes: one classical and the other very surprising and modern. For this sonata, Bach probably transcribed existing trio sonatas, but these originals have unfortunately been lost. 

Six sonatas, BWV 525-530
Around 1727-1730, Bach introduced a new organ genre: the trio sonata. This type of sonata –with two melodic instruments and bass, or a soloist and keyboard – had long been a fixture in Baroque chamber music, but the three parts had never been heard before on one instrument. Through clever registration, it is possible to attain a wealth of sounds on the organ, but this is merely the beginning, as the six sonatas are regarded as extremely difficult. Schweitzer, for instance, says that “those who have practiced these sonatas thoroughly will not actually encounter any more problems in either the old or the modern organ literature. [...] He has achieved absolute precision in his playing – the ultimate condition of the true art of organ-playing. In this complicated trio piece, even the smallest irregularity can be heard with terrifying clarity”.

Biographer Forkel remarked that Bach wrote the collection (or transcribed it from earlier material) for the studies of Wilhelm Friedemann, whom he “thus trained to be the great organist he later became”. Maybe this context is also the reason he adds galant touches to the Italian concerto style here and there, inspired by the operas in Dresden of which Friedemann was apparently a great fan. The sonatas remained influential for a long time, also on the young Mendelssohn, for example. Notwithstanding its chamber music origins, this is out-and-out keyboard music, with a unique interaction between both hands. The almost endless variation of form makes the collection a world of its own.

Sonata no. 2 in c minor
organ works
Six sonatas (organ)

Extra videos

Organist Bernard Winsemius

“Does this typical chamber music make sense on an organ, Bernard Winsemius asks himself.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    30 January 2015
  • Recording date
    25 June 2014
  • Location
    Walloon Church, Amsterdam
  • Organist
    Bernard Winsemius
  • Organ
    Christian Müller, 1734
  • Producer
    Frank van der Weij
  • Film director
    Jan Van den Bossche
  • Directors of photography
    Sal Kroonenberg, Ruben van den Broeke
  • Grip
    Antoine Petiet
  • Music production, editing and mix
    Holger Schlegel
  • Film editor
    Dylan Glyn Jones
  • Colorist
    Jef Grosfeld
  • Production assistants
    Marco Meijdam, Zoë de Wilde

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