Bach’s Fantasia Fugue Chorale | Music Mondays

Bach’s Fantasia Fugue Chorale | Music Mondays

Welcome to another Music Monday at Good Shepherd, and thank you for tuning in.

Today, we hear organ music by one of the greats: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

Bach’s “Fantasia and Fugue in G minor” is often associated with his journey to Hamburg. Many believe Bach wrote this work as an audition piece for the organist position at St. Jacobi Church. Although he did not get the position, his musicianship certainly did impress his interview panel, including Dutch organist, Johann Adam Reinken. The dark and dramatic Fantasia is composed in the popular North German style where the toccata (improvisatory-like) sections are contrasted with quiet fugal ones. The fugue is interestingly based on a lively dance-like Dutch folk tune, which some scholars believe Bach might have used in honor and/or to impress Reinken at the audition.

For most of his life, Bach worked as a dedicated Lutheran church musician and composed many chorale preludes based on familiar Lutheran hymns. One of his most beautiful chorales preludes is “Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele”, BWV 654. This hymn is an invitation to communion (Soul, adorn yourself with gladness, leave the gloomy haunts of sadness; ELW 488). Felix Mendelssohn is known to have said the following about this piece: “ ..if life had robbed me of all hope and faith, Bach’s chorale would restore them again.”

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