program notes by composition > P > Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor

Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor (for organ, BWV 582)

Johann Sebastian Bach / arr. Nicholas Falcone

Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor BWV 582

A passacaglia -- Spanish pasar (to walk) and calle (street) -- is a musical form that originated in the seventeenth-century. It is usually of a serious character, in triple meter, and often based on a bass ostinato.

An ostinato (Italian stubborn ) is a phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently in the same pitch. Examples: Ravel's “Boléro,” “Carol of the Bells,“ and the theme from Peter Gunn.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was an influential German musician and composer of the Baroque period. He was the most significant of numerous Bach family musicians. He is known for instrumental compositions and vocal music.

Johann Sebastian Bach was the eighth and last child of a city musician in Eisenach, Germany. Orphaned at age 10, he pursued a musical career from an early age. He worked as a musician for Protestant churches in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen and, for longer stretches of time, at courts in Weimar, where he expanded his organ repertory, and at Köthen, where he was mostly engaged with chamber music. He was employed as a cantor in Leipzig and composed music for the principal Lutheran churches of the city. He was granted the title of court composer by his sovereign, Augustus, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, in 1736.

Bach led a busy life. He composed over a thousand pieces in all, including cantatas, motets, masses, Magnificats, Passions, oratorios, four-part chorales, songs and arias. His instrumental music includes concertos, suites, sonatas, fugues, and other works for organ, harpsichord, lute, violin, cello, flute, chamber ensemble and orchestra. Married twice, he fathered 20 children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood.

The BWV designation commonly shown as a subtitle for Bach works refers to the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis numbered catalog of all his known works. The catalog was made by Wolfgang Schmieder in 1950 and has been revised since then.

Last updated on December 4, 2019 by Palatine Concert Band