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Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 - Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passacaglia_and_Fugue_in_C_minor,_B...

Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor (BWV 582) is

an organ piece by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Presumably composed early in Bach's career, it is
one of his most important and well-known works,
and an important influence on 19th and 20th century
passacaglias:[1] Robert Schumann described the
variations of the passacaglia as "intertwined so
ingeniously that one can never cease to be

One of the manuscript copies of BWV 582,

Contents first page

1 History
2 Analysis
2.1 Passacaglia
2.2 Fugue
2.3 Passacaglia reprise
3 Transcriptions
4 In popular culture
5 Notable recordings
6 See also
7 References
8 External links

The autograph manuscript of BWV 582 is currently considered lost; the work, as is typical for
Bach's and contemporary composers' works, is known only through a number of copies. There is
some evidence that the original was notated in organ tablature.[3] It is not known precisely when
Bach composed the work, but the available sources point to the period between 1706 and 1713. It is
possible that BWV 582 was composed in Arnstadt soon after Bach's return from Lbeck[3][4]
(where he may have studied Buxtehude's ostinato works).

The first half of the passacaglia's ostinato, which also serves as the fugue's main subject, was most
probably taken from a short work by the French composer Andr Raison, Christe: Trio en
passacaille from Messe du deuxieme ton of the Premier livre d'orgue.[5][6] It is possible that the

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second half of the ostinato was also taken from Raison, the bass line of Christe: Trio en chaconne
of Messe du sixieme ton of the same publication is very similar.[5] See Example 1 for Bach's and
Raison's themes.

Example 1. The ostinato of Bach's passacaglia is shown in the center; the corresponding theme from
Raison's works are shown above (Christe: Trio en passacaille) and below (Christe: Trio en chaconne).
Although the Trio en chaconne is not identical to Bach's theme, it shares with it a similar construction and
the same fall of a fifth at the end.

However, some scholars dispute Raison's influence. Bach's work shares some features with north
German ostinato works, most notably Buxtehude's two chaconnes (BuxWV 159 and 160) and a
passacaglia (BuxWV 161), and there is clear influence of Pachelbel's chaconnes in several
variations and the overall structure.[7]


The passacaglia is in 3/4 time typical of the form. Bach's ostinato comprises eight bars, which is
unusual but not unheard of: an ostinato of the same length is used, for example, in Johann Krieger's
organ passacaglia. The opening of the piece, which consists of the ostinato stated in the pedal with
no accompaniment from the manuals, is slightly more unusual, although this idea also occurs
elsewhere, and may even have been used by Buxtehude.[8]

There are 20 variations in BWV 582/1. The first begins with a typical C minor affekt, "a painful
longing" according to Spitta, similar to the beginning of Buxtehude's Chaconne in C minor,
BuxWV 159.[9] Numerous attempts have been made to figure out an overarching symmetrical
structure of the work, but scholars have yet to agree on a single interpretation.[10] Particularly
important attempts were made by Christoph Wolff and Siegfried Vogelsnger.[11] Some scholars
have speculated that there is a symbolic component to the structure of the work: for instance,

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Martin Radulescu argues that BWV 582/1 is "in the form of a cross".[12]

There is agreement among most scholars that the Passacaglia builds up until its climax in variation
twelve. This is followed by three quiet variations, forming a short intermezzo, and then the
remaining five variations end the work.

Bach performer and scholar Marie-Claire Alain suggested that the 21 variations are broken down
into 7 groups of 3 similar variations, each opening with a quotation from a Lutheran chorale,
treated similarly to the Orgel-Bchlein written at a similar time:[13]

Bars 812, the top part spells out the opening notes of "Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland"
Bars 2448, a cantilena spells out "Von Gott will ich nicht lassen"
Bars 4972, the scales are a reference to "Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar"
Bars 7296, recalling the "star" motif from "Herr Christ, der Ein'ge Gottes-Sohn"
Bars 96120, ornamented figure similar to that in "Christ lag in Todesbanden" accompanies
theme in the soprano then moving successively to alto and bass
Bars 144168 "Ascending intervals in bass recall the Easter chorale "Erstanden ist der heil'ge

Alain also points out that the numbers (21 repetitions of the Passacaglia ground and 12 statements
of the fugue subjects) are inversions.


The passacaglia is followed, without break, by a double fugue. The first half of the passacaglia
ostinato is used as the first subject; a transformed version of the second half is used as the second
subject.[14] Both are heard simultaneously in the beginning of the fugue. A countersubject enters
immediately afterwards and is then used throughout the piece. When the three subjects appear
simultaneously, they never do so in the same combination of voices twice; this therefore is a
permutation fugue, possibly inspired by Johann Adam Reincken's works.[15]

As the fugue progresses, Bach ventures into major keys (E and B) and the time between the
statements increases from 13 bars to 713.

Passacaglia reprise

Even though it is only 8 bars long, there is a brief reprise of the passacaglia after the fugue.

The passacaglia has been transcribed for orchestra by Leopold Stokowski, Ottorino Respighi, Ren
Leibowitz, Eugene Ormandy, Sir Andrew Davis and Tomasz Golka and for piano by numerous
composer/pianists including Eugen d'Albert, Georgy Catoire, Max Reger (in a version for 2

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pianos), Fazil Say, and Awadagin Pratt. It has also been arranged for a brass quintet by Neil Balm
and performed by The Canadian Brass. A transcription for viol consort was recorded by the UK
group Fretwork in 2005. In 2006, the passacaglia was transcribed for handbells by Kevin
McChesney and recorded by Cast of Bronze from Dallas, Texas. The passacaglia was also
transcribed by Donald Hunsberger for the Eastman Wind Ensemble (symphonic wind ensemble)
and for the Eastman Trombone Choir (trombone octet). In 2009, the work was transcribed for string
quartet by Nicholas Kitchen for performance by the Borromeo String Quartet.

In Stokowski's orchestral transcription the whole of the coda is slow and fortissimo without the
possibility of a final massive rallentando. He made six commercial recordings of it between 1928
and 1972.

In popular culture
An arrangement of some initial parts of the passacaglia is present two times in the baptism
sequence of the movie The Godfather (1972).
Roland Petit created a ballet, Le jeune homme et la mort (The Young Man and Death), set to
the Passacaglia and Fugue in Cm. An abbreviated version of the ballet appears as the opening
scene of the 1985 movie White Nights.
A small segment of a piano transcription is played in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,
performed by Angela Hewitt (transcription by Eugen d'Albert).
A jazz interpretation of BWV 582 was recorded by flautist Hubert Laws for his 1973 live
album Carnegie Hall (CTI Records).
Jimi Hendrix recorded an interpretation which may be heard on the album "Jimi Hendrix at
His Best, Volume 3", as "Lift Off."
The passacaglia is featured on the Robert Fripp album, The Bridge Between (1993).
Around 1964, the entire passacaglia amongst other music was digitally rendered at MIT on a
PDP-1 with a special soundcard device and recorded on magnetic tape. Digital recordings of
the tape(s) are available here (http://audio.textfiles.com/sounds/PDPMUSIC

Notable recordings
E. Power Biggs, organ, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University (1958)
Helmut Walcha, organ at St. Laurenskerk in Alkmaar, Archiv Produktion, (1962)
Virgil Fox, organ, Bach Live At Fillmore East, Decca (1971) live recording from the Heavy
Organ concert series; Philharmonic Hall (later Avery Fisher Hall), Command Records (1963)
Anthony Newman, pedal harpsichord, Columbia Masterworks (1968)
Karl Richter, organ Freiberg Cathedral, Groe Silbermann-Orgel (1980)
Peter Hurford, Casavant Frres tracker organ, Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Toronto,
Canada (1984)
Andr Isoir, organ Basilika Weingarten, Calliope (1988) including use of the 49 rank pedal
mixture "la force" on the bottom pedal C throughout

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Hans-Andr Stamm, on the Trost-Organ in Waltershausen, Germany

Ton Koopman, organ Basilika Ottobeuren, Novalis/Brilliant (1989)
Christopher Herrick, organ Stadtkirche Zofingen, Hyperion (1990)
Simon Preston, Sauer organ, St. Peter, Waltrop, Deutsche Grammophon (1991)
Marie-Claire Alain, organ Stiftskirche Grauhof, Erato (1994)
Ton Koopman, organ Grote Kerk, Maassluis, Teldec (1994)
Kevin Bowyer, Marcussen organ Saint Hans Church, Odense, Nimbus (1998)
Michael Murray, The Great Organ At Methuen, Telarc (2002; orig. 1980)
Joseph Nolan, organ of Buckingham Palace ballroom, www.signumrecords.com (2007)
Bernard Foccroulle, Schnitger organ van de Martinikerk te Groningen, Ricercar (2008)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass, CSO Resound (2011)

See also
List of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach


Marie-Claire Alain sleeve notes for CD recording Bach: Complete Organ Works, vol. 14.
Erato, 1993. Cat. 4509-96747-2, (originally in French, translated by Stewart Spencer)
Yoshitake Kobayashi (2006). "Chapter four: The variation principle in J. S. Bach's
Passacaglia in C minor BWV 582". In Daniel R. Melamed. Bach Studies 2. Cambridge
University Press. pp. 6269. ISBN 9780521028912.
H. Joseph Butler. "Andr Raison". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music
Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
Alexander Silbiger. "Passacaglia". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music
Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
Peter F. Williams. The Organ Music of J. S. Bach. Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN
Christoph Wolff. Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician. Oxford University Press,
2000. ISBN 0-19-924884-2
Christoph Wolff. "Johann Sebastian Bach". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford
Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)


1. Silbiger, Grove.
2. Hans Theodore David, Arthur Mendel, Christoph Wolff. The New Bach Reader: A Life of Johann
Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents, 503. W.W. Norton, 1998. ISBN 0-393-31956-3
3. Williams, 182.
4. Wolff, 94.

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5. Williams, 183.
6. Butler, Grove.
7. Williams, 1845.
8. Williams, 184.
9. Williams, 185; includes the Spitta quotation and reference.
10. Kobayashe, 62.
11. Kobayashe, 623.
12. Martin Radulescu. On the form of Johann Sebastian Bach's Passacaglia in c minor, The Organ
Yearbook 1980: 95103.
13. Alain, 1993.
14. Wolff, 97.
15. Wolff, 978.

External links
Free download of BWV 582 (http://www.blockmrecords.org/bach/detail.php?ID=BWV0582)
recorded by James Kibbie on the 172430 Trost organ in the Stadtkirche, Waltershausen,
Tim Smith's interactive hypermedia study (http://bach.nau.edu/BWV582/BWV582b.html) of
BWV 582 with analysis by Smith, Parsons, and performance by James Pressler (Shockwave
Player required)
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 (http://www.mutopiaproject.org/cgibin/piece-
info.cgi?id=741) at the Mutopia Project
Performance of BWV 582 (http://allofbach.com/en/bwv/bwv-582/) by Reitze Smits from the
All of Bach Project

Retrieved from "https://en.wikipedia.org


Categories: Fugues by Johann Sebastian Bach Compositions for organ

Compositions in C minor

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