Prelude and fugue in B minor
BWV 544 performed by Elske te Lindert
Behind the music
Impressive and melancholy
Bach mourns the death of a beloved queen.
There is a good chance that Bach played this impressive piece for the first time in St Paul’s Church in Leipzig. That is where, on 17 October 1727, the university held a memorial service for the recently departed Christiane Eberhardine der Starke, who was the Electress of Saxony and the Queen of Poland. For this occasion, Bach wrote ‘funeral music in Italian style’: the cantata Lass, Fürstin, lass noch einen Strahl, BWV 198. During the ceremony, Bach played the organ himself. He opened with a prelude and ended with a fugue, and although nobody can prove it, it seems highly likely that it was this piece. It exudes the same atmosphere as the funeral music and is written in the same key of B minor. In those days, B minor was described as bizarre, listless and melancholy. And Bach used it more often for stately and mournful occasions, such as the aria ‘Erbarme dich’ from the St Matthew Passion, for example.
The despair is almost tangible in the prelude. Bach comes straight to the point with a melancholy lament, which is followed by great leaps in the pedal, repetitive and stubborn, as if you have to keep reminding yourself of what has happened. The whole piece seems to be filled with deep emotion. The fugue, logically, is more rational, although it is no less ingenious. Bach investigates every possibility of the relatively easy to sing theme. On the way to the end, when the pedal returns after a long absence, he adds a second element – once again with relatively large leaps – and so works towards a hopeful ending.
- Prelude and fugue in B minor
- organ works
- Memorial service for Christiane Eberhardine der Starke.
- First performance
- 17 October 1727
- Release date
- 19 May 2017
- Recording date
- 1 October 2015
- Bovenkerk, Kampen
- Elske te Lindert
- Albertus Antoni Hinsz, 1742
- Jan Van den Bossche, Hanna Schreuders
- Maarten van Rossem, Gijs Besseling
- Music recording, edit and mix
- Guido Tichelman
- Film editor and interview
- Gijs Besseling
- Jessie Verbrugh
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