Fuga sopra il Magnificat

Fuga sopra il Magnificat

BWV 733 performed by Matthias Havinga
St Bavo's Church, Haarlem

Behind the music

Story
Story
Extra videos
Extra videos
Credits
Credits

A difficult melody

Bach fools his listener with a quasi-fugue.

In view of the title Fuga sopra il Magnificat, you would expect a more prominent function for the melody in this compact organ prelude. But the Gregorian Magnificat melody that Bach uses here is persistent. It evidently comes from a different musical era, which was still dominated by the old church modes.

We can even question whether or not this actually a fugue. What is certain, however, is that the ‘sopra’ in the title is to be taken literally. Here, it means ‘on top of’ or even ‘in between’, rather than its usual definition of ‘based on’. Bach cuts the melody of the Magnificat in two and then deliberately restricts himself to statements of the first half. Only at the last moment does he end the phrase in the pedal that suddenly springs into action. The fact is that the second half of the melody has a harmonic challenge: five times the same note, for which Bach has to find a creative solution in the upper parts.
Practical as ever, he juxtaposes a wealth of little motifs with the simple melody. For instance, throughout the piece we hear the recurring run from bar 2, just like the jumpy notes from bar 3, which can be inverted, extended, halved and doubled, etc. But little motifs do not make a fugue, or at least not a real one. Here, themes do not behave as they ought, and once the fugal box of tricks is opened it is more for the effect than to follow the rules of the art. And yet we fall for this ‘fugue’ with eyes wide open. Not bad for a young composer!

BWV
733
Title
Fuga sopra il Magnificat
Instrument
Organ
Genre
organ works
Year
1708-1717
City
Weimar
Special notes
This chorale arrangement has also been handed down as a work by Johann Ludwig Krebs.

Extra videos

Organist Matthias Havinga

“Matthias Havinga explains how Bach adds colour to a simple melody.”

Vocal texs

Original

Translation

Credits

  • Release date
    12 January 2018
  • 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
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde
Help us to complete All of Bach Help us to complete All of Bach

Help us to complete All of Bach

There are still many recordings to be made before the whole of Bach’s oeuvre is online. And we can’t complete the task without the financial support of our patrons. Please help us to complete the musical heritage of Bach, by supporting us with a donation!