Prelude and fugue in A minor

Prelude and fugue in A minor

BWV 894 performed by Menno van Delft
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • 1. Prelude
  • 2. Fugue

Behind the music

Story
Story
Extra videos
Extra videos
Credits
Credits

Spectacular virtuosity

Bach provides entertainment for princes and courtiers, but then with a subversive little smile.

Bach was mainly known, especially at the bigger courts like Dresden and Berlin, for his dexterous harpsichord playing and his improvisational talent. Although we do not know precisely what and how he played, a work such as this gives us a good idea. We continually hear “walking or jumping up and down on the instrument”, as Johann Nikolaus Forkel described Bach’s early works, in 1802. But the description also applies well to a later work like this Prelude and fugue in A minor.

Of course, Bach’s real improvisations have not survived, but works like BWV 894 come pretty close to what they would have sounded like. The pieces in which Bach appears to be improvising are not his most subtle compositions or best fugues. But as always in Bach’s day, the musical style was adapted to the location and occasion. And the entertainment of princes and courtiers just so happened to consist, in part, of musical competitions, challenges and spectacular virtuosity. Bach was still Bach, of course, so here too it concerns a prelude and fugue in form, although in fact BWV 894 sounds like a virtuoso concerto with the slow middle movement removed. In the prelude, the opening melody alternates with increasingly virtuoso passages. Then the fugue carries on the “eternal walking and jumping” without pause. It is almost as if Bach is responding to the demand for spectacle by simply removing all the moments of calm, with a subversive little smile.

BWV
894
Title
Prelude and fugue in A minor
Instrument
Harpsichord
Genre
harpsichord works
Year
1715-1725
City
Weimar/Köthen/Leipzig
Special notes
Bach later used both movements for his Triple Concerto, BWV 1044.

Extra videos

Harpsichordist Menno van Delft

“Menno van Delft on one of his favourite pieces by J. S. Bach.”

Vocal texs

Original

Translation

Credits

  • Release date
    15 April 2016
  • Recording date
    17 October 2015
  • Location
    Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
  • Harpsichordist
    Menno van Delft
  • Harpsichord
    Geert Karman after J.H. Gräbner, 1774
  • Film director and editor
    Dick Kuijs
  • Music production, editing and mix
    Everett Porter
  • Camera
    Martine Rozema, Caroline Nutbey
  • Studio assistent
    Marijn Kooy
  • Gaffer
    Tim Groot
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • Interview
    Gijs Besseling, Kasper Koudenburg
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