The "Cathedral" Prelude and Fugue is also listed in
various Bach catalogs under the nicknames "Little" or
"Petite." At about five minutes, it is among the
shorter Preludes and Fugues, and thus its simpler
moniker may be more appropriate than the seemingly
nondescript "Cathedral," listed in the headnote here.
This work was likely written during the first few years
that Bach spent in Arnstadt, the city where he served
as organist at the Neue Kirche from 1703-1707. It
probably preceded Bach's study of Buxtehude's works
(begun in 1705), which would have a profound influence
on his keyboard compositions.
In one respect the Prelude and Fugue in E minor here is
unusual: most such works by Bach contain a slow section
(usually the prelude) and a larger fast section
(usually the fugue). Here, both are moderately paced,
with the opening portion, the Prelude, at times stormy
and restless, and filled with much intensity and drama.
It is also stately in its seriousness, and contains
very little contrapuntal writing, thereby setting the
stage for the counterpoint-laden Fugue that follows. If
the music in the Fugue comes across as relaxed -- at
least by contrast -- it also conveys a busier sense, a
feeling the mood is evolving from the serene but
earthbound to the inspiring and heavenly. Perhaps the
nickname "Cathedral" is not so nondescript after
Although originally composed for Organ, I created this
modern intrepretation for Brass Quintet (Bb Trumpet,
Flugelhorn, French Horn, Trombone & F Tuba).