Bach: Toccata and Fugue in d minor Famous piece of Baroque organ music

Bach: Toccata and Fugue in d minor

Bach: Toccata and Fugue in d minor BWV 565, is two-part musical composition for organ written, according to its oldest extant sources, by Johann Sebastian Bach 300 years ago, First published in 1833 through the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn, ever the Bach fanboy.

This masterful work is one of the most Baroque famous works in the organ repertoire – with a particularly iconic opening. It was included as the opening piece in Walt Disney’s film Fantasia, which has made it so well-known today.

In a way, the Toccata and Fugue in D minor is the perfect piece of Halloween music. It was the organ piece’s use during the silent film era that cemented its status as the go-to spooky music. 

However, some scholars believe it’s too crude a piece to have been written by Bach at all, others defend and say that maybe Bach composed it early in his life, so it’s a little different of his other compositions!


Toccata and Fugue meaning

The first part of Bach’s piece is a toccata (derived from the Italian toccare, “to touch”). It represents a musical form for keyboard instruments that is intended to show off the performer’s keyboard virtuosity. It has a great many fast arpeggios (notes of a chord played in a series rather than simultaneously).

The fugue—a technique characterized by the overlapping repetition of a principal theme in different melodic lines (counterpoint)—that is the second part of Bach’s composition reflects the particular popularity of the form during the late 1600s and early 1700s.

Here, Classical organist Hans-André Stamm plays Bach: Toccata and Fugue in d minor on the Trost-Organ of the Stadtkirche in Waltershausen, Germany.

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