Prelude (Fantasia) in A minor

Prelude (Fantasia) in A minor

BWV 922 performed by Lars Ulrik Mortensen
at the Bartolotti House, Amsterdam

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos


How long do you think I can keep playing with one idea without becoming boring?

The Fantasia in A minor appears to be an extensive exercise in polyptoton: the repetition of a word in a slightly different form each time. The concept comes from rhetoric, which has many terms for different sorts of repetition in a text. Besides polyptoton, for instance, there are ploche, epizeuxis, diaphora, anadiplosis and anaphora. In Bach’s day, there was extensive and detailed theoretical literature about rhetoric. And this skill of knowing which stylistic device to use in a text, along with the associated terminology, was also applied in writing music. Especially by Bach. This Fantasia can be regarded as a demonstration of the art of repetition.

In the interview, Lars Ulrik Mortensen shows how the consecutive sections are all constructed of minimal melodic means. Each variation actually only consists of the shifting chromatic harmonies, while one small motif is endlessly repeated. Almost as a challenge, Bach seems to be asking, “how long do you think I can keep playing with the same simple idea without becoming boring?” In fact, it is longer than you might expect – and to great effect. A tract that was attributed to Cicero in Bach’s day states quite rightly that repetition makes ‘a deep impression on the listener, as if a weapon repeatedly strikes the same part of the body’.

Prelude (Fantasia) in A minor
harpsichord works
ca. 1710-1714
Special notes
Survived in a source from the Krebs estate.

Extra videos

Harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen

“From beginning to end Bach creates expectations and then does something different.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    3 October 2019
  • Recording date
    14 October 2017
  • Location
    Bartolotti House, Amsterdam
  • Harpsichordist
    Lars Ulrik Mortensen
  • Harpsichord
    Geert Karman after J.H. Gräbner, 1774
  • Director, camera and lights
    Gijs Besseling
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera, lights
    Danny Noordanus
  • Data handling, camera and lighting assistant
    Eline Eestermans
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • Acknowledgement
    Vereniging Hendrick de Keyser

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