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
judging by the character of Bach's early keyboard
works, both the improvisatory and virtuoso aspects of
his playing acted as spurs to his creativity.
Improvisation was essential to the keyboard player's
training in Bach's day, and numerous passages in the
early keyboard works no doubt had an extempore basis,
notably hisfree fantasy interludes, the toccatas and
the ruminative elaborated chord sequences in his
preludes (BWV 921-923). In addition, many pieces may
have originated, at least in part, as material for the
exercise of Bach's own virtuosity. However, these
virtuoso and improvisatory elements, the urge 'to run
or leap up and down the instrument, to take both hands
as full as all the five fingers will allow and to
proceed in this wild manner till he by chance finds a
resting place? represent only one side of the musical
make-up of the young Bach. Just as strong, and
eventually predominant, was the impulse to create order
in sound, to excel in the art of musical construc-tion.
Here Bach appears to have been very largely
self-taught. His search for compositional models is
illustrated in the story of his illicit copying during
the Ohrdruf years (1695-1700) of a book of keyboard
pieces belonging to his elder brother Johann Christoph.
This book, which is no longer extant, contained music
by three seventeenth-century South German composers (J.
J. Froberger, J. C. Kerl and J. Pachelbel) two of whom
(Kerl and Pachelbel) were linked with Johann Christoph
in a direct teacher—pupil line.
Although originally written for Harpsichord. I created
this Arrangement of the Prelude (Fantasia) in C Minor
(BWV 921) for Classical Guitar Duet.