Johann Sebastian Bach was better known as a virtuoso
organist than as a composer in his day. His sacred
music, organ and choral works, and other instrumental
music had an enthusiasm and seeming freedom that
concealed immense rigor. Bach's use of counterpoint was
brilliant and innovative, and the immense complexities
of his compositional style -- which often included
religious and numerological symbols that seem to fit
perfectly together in a profound puzzle of special
codes -- still amaze musicians today. Many consider him
the greatest composer of all time.
As a young man, Bach developed a rather unique talent
for writing long passages of pseudo recitative for the
organ, trusting the acoustics of the building to 'fill
out' the harmony the listener experiences, even though
no more than a single note at any one time is being
played. The organ wasn't the only instrument where he
displayed this skill as with his Cello sonatas.
Giovanni Legrenzi was an Italian composer of opera,
vocal and instrumental music, and organist, of the
Baroque era. He was one of the most prominent composers
in Venice in the late 17th century, and extremely
influential on the development of late Baroque idioms
across northern Italy.
This fugue was probably written during Bach's years in
Arnstadt, where he served as organist at the Neue
Kirche. He had always shown interest in the works of
the Italian masters and wrote a number of compositions
based on their themes, including Fugue for organ in B
minor (on a Theme of Corelli) (BWV 579), Fugue for
keyboard in B minor (on a theme of Albinoni) (BWV 951),
and this C minor effort for organ based on a theme by
Giovanni Legrenzi (1626 - 1690). The work opens with
Legrenzi's theme, a stately creation that Bach
brilliantly developed during the course of the fugue.
It begins with a sort of five-note motto that rises
high on the keyboard, almost serving as a repeating
fanfare on each of its appearances. Not surprisingly,
Bach's contrapuntal writing is brilliant throughout and
at the core of the work's success, inner voices emerge
with crucial detail or blend deftly with the main line
to forge some new thematic aspect. Near the end is a
cadenza-like episode of great drama that leads to a
brilliant, powerful close. This work typically has a
duration of six or seven minutes.
Although originally composed for Organ, I created this
modern interpretation of the Fugue on a Theme by
Giovanni Legrenzi in C Minor (BWV 574) for Brass
Quartet (Bb Trumpet, Flugelhorn, French Horn & F Tuba).