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J.S. Bach: "Prelude and Fugue in E-flat," BWV 552 ("St. Anne")

Prelude and Fugue in E-flat, BWV 552 ("St. Anne")

Johann Sebastian Bach

Born: March 21, 1685, Eisenach, Germany

Died: July 28, 1750, Leipzig, Germany

Instrumentation: Keyboard (organo pleno con pedale)

Transcription: Wind Band

Duration: 20 minutes

Composed: 1793


Johann Sebastian Bach wrote and published four sets of works under the title Clavierübung, which were intended as practice opportunities for keyboard players.

The first volume (1731) contained Six Partitas, BWV 825-830, for keyboard and fifteen Two Part Inventions, BWV 772-786. Volume Two (1735) featured the Concerto in the Italian Style (BWV 971) and the Overture in the French Manner (BWV 831). Volume Three, (1739) opens with a huge Praeludium in E-flat followed by twenty-one chorale preludes, four duets and a closing Fugue in E-flat. The Fourth volume (1742) of the Clavierübung contains the famed Goldberg Variations (BWV 988).

Listen for:

Volume Three of the Clavierübung is laden with references to the number three, symbolic of the Holy Trinity. Throughout this work Bach paid particular attention and tribute to Martin Luther’s Catechism. Many of the Catechism Chorale Preludes were written for manualiter (works for manual only) while others indicate organo pleno con pedale (works for organ with pedal).

The volume opens with the Praeludium, which is cast in three primary sections. The opening statement, with its massive vertical structures and dotted rhythms, will return briefly in the middle movement and also provide some of the closing material. The second section, which is gentler in nature, is stated twice and leads into a contrapuntal dialogue that displays Bach’s great penchant for fugal exposition.

The Fugue, which closes Clavierübung III, is also in three parts that are separate and distinct styles as well. It has carried a ‘nickname’ for many years of “St. Anne” due to the close proximity in melodic content to William Croft’s (1678 – 1727) hymn tune of 1708, “O God our Help in ages past”, text (1719) by Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748).

The Fugue’s middle section contains a more rapidly moving subject that combines with the opening fugue theme; the third and concluding part features a jaunty, dance-like subject that also includes melodic references to the opening fugue material.

- Donald Hunsberger

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