Johann Sebastian was not the only composer in the
family. If this Fantasia and fugue in C minor had not
survived in two manuscripts in Bach’s own handwriting,
it might have been attributed to one of his composer
sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel or Wilhelm Friedemann. The
title Fantasia, the use of triplets and the rather
fitful yet airy character are all hallmarks of the
empfindsame (sensitive) style. And this style is found
much more often in the works of Bach’s sons than in
those he wrote himself. The way the hands cross over
one another is also something that regularly appears in
the work of both sons. They picked up all sorts of
things as teenagers at home.
The fugue is a different matter altogether. Whereas the
chromaticism in the fantasia consisted of ornamenting
the melody, it borders on the extreme in the structure
of the fugue. And in the other parts, too, Bach tries
not to neatly channel the chromaticism. He continually
uses strange diminished and augmented chords, sometimes
adding extra dissonants as well. The whole becomes a
sort of harmonic distorting mirror, as if a normal
fugue has gone off the rails.
Then suddenly everything changes! The fast notes return
from nowhere and a new theme appears. There are even
hand crossovers, a technique Bach seldom used in
fugues. And just as the chromatic fugue theme returns
and Bach seems to be clarifying matters, the manuscript
ends abruptly in the middle of a page, leaving us
rather confused with a musical question mark.
Although originally written for Harpsichord. I created
this Transcription of the Fantasia & Fugue in C Minor
(BWV 906) for Concert (Pedal) Harp.