JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
TOCCATA AND FUGUE IN D MINOR
Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method
Duration: About 9 Minutes
Genre: Toccata (Prelude) and Fugue
Time of Creation: 1703–1707
World Premiere: Unknown
Table of Contents
Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in 5 Sentences
The Toccata and Fugue in D minor was written by Johann Sebastian Bach when he was only about 20 years old. The style of this work is so special that it has been doubted several times whether it was really written by Bach. The idiosyncratic style could also be explained by the fact that Bach did not “compose” this piece in the strict sense, but improvised it (and then wrote it down). Numerous musical cross-connections exist between the Toccata and the Fugue. The Toccata and Fugue in D minor is one of the most popular organ works ever, which is also reflected in the large number of later arrangements by other composers (Ferruccio Busoni, Leopold Stokowski, Enjott Schneider).
4 Highlights from Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
Highlight 1: Beginning
The piece begins with the two famous “calls.”
Highlight 2: Virtuoso runs
This signal-like beginning is followed by virtuoso runs:
Highlight 3: End of the toccata and beginning of the fugue
If you still have the virtuoso runs from the Toccata in your ear, you will immediately notice how closely related to them the beginning of the fugue is:
Highlight 4: Closing climax
The work ends with a virtuoso combination of the musical elements that are already familiar:
3 Questions and Answers about Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor
Question 1: What is a toccata?
A toccata is a piece of music that is formally very free. Often toccatas were improvisations that were subsequently written down. The toccata is thus closely related to the fantasia.
Question 2: What is a fugue?
A fugue is a compositional principle characterized by imitation: different voices perform the same musical theme in time-shifted fashion and on different pitches.
Question 3: Who wrote the Toccata and Fugue in D minor?
Most musicologists today assume that the Toccata and Fugue in D minor was written by Johann Sebastian Bach. However, due to the unusual stylistics, there are also musicologists who suspect another composer as the author. For example, the German composer Johann Peter Kellner is mentioned as a possibility.
2 Recommended Recordings of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor
Recording 1: Leo van Doeselaar (film recording, 2013)
This recording is from the All of Bach project of the Dutch Bach Society. It features Leo van Doeselaar playing:
Recording 2: Matthias Maierhofer (film recording, 2022)
Here, Freiburg Cathedral organist Matthias Maierhofer plays the Toccata and Fugue in D minor on the four organs of Freiburg Cathedral: