Throughout his life, Johann Sebastian Bach used many
compositional models as aids for writing music. But, in
many ways he changed these structures, molding them for
his own purposes. In this way, Bach was able to create
novel compositions which superficially resembled
antiquated forms, but had surprising and unexpected
twists, and it is this way that he was able to sustain
interest in a musical style long since past.
This work, the Toccata in g minor, is an example of
Bach's early experimentation with form. Probably
written before 1712, this work very well may have
undergone revision and might have been composed as many
as five years before that point. Though ostensibly in
the style of the North German toccata popular in the
17th century, it has a few unusual structural
peculiarities. As we will see, it has an unique
symmetry absent in all six other manualiter (or hands
only) toccatas Bach wrote.
The opening is a brilliant improvisatory passage based
on the g minor tonality. This moves without pause into
a Sarabande-like adagio. Both of these sections are
brief, however, and merely act as introductory material
for the first main section of the piece, the allegro.
Rather than picking the home key of g minor (the one in
fact prepared by the ending of the preceding adagio),
Bach chooses the relative major of B-flat. The section
is an extended fugato with subject and countersubject
stated initially and proceeds in a concerto-like
fashion with an alternation of "tutti" and "solo"
implied by register and texture. This section is the
most elegantly composed section of the work, but by no
means the most impressive from a virtuosos standpoint.
The allegro continues into a second adagio of a
different character (albeit the same meter). Again, it
is a brief interruption, allowing Bach to modulate back
to the home key before the final fugue. Upon cadencing
after only eleven measures, Bach begins with a furious
gigue fugue. Although of great length and extremely
awkward keyboard writing, this fugue a has careful
harmonic structure. At the same time, the texture is
fairly uniform which can lead towards monotony, though
he applies some creative solutions such as subject and
countersubject inversion. Ordinarily, the fugue is the
conclusion of the toccata, but in this case, as
mentioned above, Bach rounds out the form with a nearly
literal return to the opening fantasia as well as a
brief reference to the first adagio.
Although originally written for Harpsichord. I created
this Arrangement of the Toccata in G Minor (BWV 915)
for Flute & Concert (Pedal) Harp.