The connection to the north German organ school was noted early by Bach biographer Philipp Spitta in However, the numerous recitative stretches are rarely found in the works of northern composers and may have been inspired by Johann Heinrich Buttstett, whose few surviving free works, particularly Prelude and Capriccio in D minor, exhibit similar features. In addition, a passage from the fugue of BWV bars 36—37 closely resembles one of the sections from Johann Pachelbel's Fantasia in D minor, Perreault Pachelbel's work also may have been the inspiration behind Bach's fugue subject.
It was common practice at the time to create fugues on other composers' themes, and a number of such pieces by Bach are known BWV , , , etc. As indicated by the accepted title of the piece, the Toccata and Fugue is in D minor.
The Toccata begins with a single-voice flourish in the upper ranges of the keyboard, doubled at the octave. It then spirals toward the bottom, where a diminished seventh chord appears which actually implies a dominant chord with a minor 9th against a tonic pedal , built one note at a time.
This resolves into a D major chord, taken from the parallel major mode. This is followed by three short passages, each reiterating a short motif, and each doubled at the octave.
The section ends with a diminished seventh chord which resolved, through a flourish, into the tonic, D minor. The second section of the Toccata is a number of loosely connected figurations and flourishes; the pedal switches to the dominant key, A minor. This section segues into the third and final section of the Toccata, which consists almost entirely of a passage doubled at the sixth and comprising reiterations of the same three-note figure, similar to doubled passages in the first section.
After a brief pedal flourish, the piece ends with a D minor chord.
The subject of the four-voice fugue is made up entirely of sixteenth notes, with an implied pedal point set against a brief melodic subject that first falls, then rises. The second entry starts in the sub-dominant key rather than the dominant key.
Although unusual for a Bach fugue, this is a real answer and is appropriate following a subject that progresses from V to I and then to V below I by a leap. A straightforward dominant answer would sound odd in a Baroque piece.
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First published in through the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn, the piece quickly became popular, and is now one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire. The attribution of the piece to Bach, however, has been challenged since the s by a number of scholars. Attribution: Some of the earliest publications to raise the authorship question were articles by Walter Emery and Friedrich Blume , and Roger Bullivant's book Fugue Ten years after Bullivant's volume, a paper by musicologist Peter Williams was published, dealing specifically with BWV and outlining a number of stylistic problems present in the piece.
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