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).

Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.

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:

1 Quote about Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor

[...] a combination of ancient and modern harmony that seems almost characteristic of the young Bach.

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