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Prelude & Fugue XIV (BWV 544)

Prelude & Fugue XIV (BWV 544)

Bach, Johann Sebastian

Arr. Bishop, Andrew


  • Ensemble: Brass Quintet
  • Genre: Classical
  • Grade: 5
  • Duration: 11.5 minutes
  • Catalog Number: AOS913

Among J.S. Bach's enormous output of Baroque masterworks, his compositions for the organ rank at the very top both in volume and variety. Indeed, Bach composed more pieces for organ than any other instrument. His twenty-five year tenure as Cantor at Thomaskirche in Leipzig afforded Bach ample opportunity to develop an exquisite mastery of counterpoint, and the works he produced during this period represent the pinnacle of his musical maturity.

Bach's monumental organ Prelude and Fugue BWV 544 is one of the last great works from his Leipzig period, and is considered one of his most important. Noted Bach scholar Hermann Keller surmises that Bach must have been aware of its importance, as Bach himself created a copy in carefully elegant calligraphy that ranks among the must beautiful manuscripts in existence. BWV 544 features a Prelude consisting of weighted Italian harmonic sequences (Vivaldi's influence on him, no doubt) of a melancholy nature, and was probably performed at the funeral for the Electress of Saxony in 1727. The remarkable Fugue consists of flowing lines that drive inevitably to a bombastic final cadence with unstoppable force.

Originally in B minor, this arrangement for brass quintet was created down a half-step in B-flat minor to better suit the idiosyncrasies of brass instruments. Both Prelude and Fugue sections are around 5:45 seconds in length and could easily stand alone on their own merit. However, the editor suggests a complete performance of both Prelude and Fugue whenever possible. The suggested tempi may also be customized to fit the needs of each individual quintet. It requires five especially strong and polished brass musicians, and would easily fit the bill as a signature show-stopper for any major performance.

Trumpet 1 is in E♭ and Trumpet 2 in B♭.

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