Prelude and fugue in G major

Prelude and fugue in G major

BWV 550 performed by Matthias Havinga
St Bavo's Church, Haarlem

  • Menu
  • 1. Prelude
  • 2. Fugue

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos


This piece requires pedal – and in no small measure!

In some of the earliest sources for this exuberant Prelude and fugue, the first part is described as a “praeludio in G-dur con pedal” or a “praeludio pedaliter”. In itself, there is nothing unusual about the use of pedals (the ‘keys’ of the organ operated by the feet) in an organ piece in Bach’s day. So at first sight, the description appears to be just a useful eighteenth-century indication (NB: can only be played on an organ with pedals!). But twelve bars into the piece, there is an aha-erlebnis; you hear a long, lively pedal solo, which not only requires more than a second-rate village organist, but also more than a second-rate village organ. The range of the solo covers more than two octaves (from low C to high D), which was definitely not the norm at the time! The organ of the Cathedral of Saint Bavo, in Haarlem, has a pedal with this range. It has two ‘pedal towers’, with pipes measuring almost 11 metres in length. So it was logical that organist Matthias Havinga should choose this instrument on which to play the piece.

In the rest of the piece, both in the prelude and the fugue, the feet play a role equal to the hands. The pedal is used to its full capacity throughout the piece. There is even one note that is higher than the highest note of the solo. The theme of the fugue is as exuberant as that of the prelude, and is based on similar motifs. With no over-complicated excursions to far-flung keys, the fugue proceeds towards its ending like a lively Baroque perpetuum mobile. And just before the ending, the feet (with the hands in their wake) go one last time from low to high and back again over the pedals. Pedaliter indeed – point taken!

This recording was made on the famous Müller organ in the Great or St. Bavo Church, in Haarlem. It is a very special instrument from 1738. Both Georg Friedrich Händel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart travelled to Haarlem to play this organ! Händel was particularly delighted by the unusual Vox Humana register. The organ has over 5000 pipes, divided over 64 registers, with three manuals and a pedal.

Prelude and fugue in G major
organ works

With support from

The Miller Family Charitable Foundation

Extra videos

Organist Matthias Havinga

“The sound should come bouncing into the church and sweep you along.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    25 August 2017
  • Recording date
    21 September 2016
  • Location
    St Bavo's Church, Haarlem
  • Organist
    Matthias Havinga
  • Organ
    Christian Müller, 1738
  • Director
    Bas Wielenga
  • Music recording, edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Bas Wielenga, Jeroen Simons
  • Lights
    Gregoor van de Kamp
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • With support from
    The Miller Family Charitable Foundation

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