The Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, is an organ prelude and fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach.
It acquired that name to distinguish it from the earlier Little Fugue in G minor, which is shorter.
This piece is not to be confused with the Prelude and Fugue in A minor, which is also for organ and also sometimes called "the Great".
The Fantasia may have been composed separately during Bach's time in Köthen (1717–23).
In this recording I only play the Fantasia with the minor/major ending.
No autograph manuscript of either the Fantasia or the Fugue survives, and no manuscript of the Fantasia survives from the composer's lifetime.
It is not clear whether the practice of coupling the Fantasia with the Fugue derives from the composer himself.
William H. Bates writes:
Only one eighteenth-century manuscript in its original state [...] places the two pieces side by side. Further, it is evident that the fugue circulated widely [in manuscript] without the fantasy [...]. In fact, known or likely fugue copies by Bach pupils or associates [...] are devoid of any association with the fantasy.
There are many variant textual readings in the manuscripts, perhaps most prominently in the final chord of the Fantasia, which is recorded as both G major and G minor.
Some manuscripts preserve the fugue in the key of F minor rather than G minor; this transposition was probably performed in order to make the fugue playable on an organ whose pedals lacked a high D, and may well have been approved or even carried out by the composer himself.
Front: 100. Rear: 100
I dedicate this recording to Prof. Helmut Maier, the developer of the excellent Steinmeyer sampleset.
He kindly provided me with his registrations for the Fantasia; chosen for playing it on the Berlin Steinmeyer.