JS Bach - Fugue in C Major, BWV 564


The final portion of Bach's titanic opus 'Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C Major'. It was recorded in 2014 on the Trinity Baptist Church Rodgers organ in Cordova, TN.

Even after playing the pipe organ for a long time, this beast of a work had always been incredibly intimidating to me - its cascading volleys of shapes are overlapping and never-ending. I honestly could never make it past the first page.

2014 was also a big year personally - after living in Memphis, TN for all of my life, I had realized for two years that this was going to be my last one in the city. During this spring and summer I was saying a lot of goodbyes. One day I listened to a recording of this piece by Virgil Fox in the car, and it ignited something fresh in me that told me it was time to get over myself and learn it. This was the kind of goodbye I liked - one that assures us that time does continue, that new chapters will unfold, and in fact they will always unfold.

Someone on Wikipedia calls it a 'considerable advance' in Bach's compositional abilities, and you can hear the joy as he unlocks new expressive capabilities. By the final bars there is a feeling of overwhelming ecstasy as the fugal shapes are arranged tactically within musical space.

I knew the performance, despite its difficulty, had to be a 'perpetuum mobile', because the constant tempo and rhythm is what creates groove - the ability of all sacred music (labelled as such or not) to take us into a mystical 'second attention', or 'vertical time.' To me this work is both incredibly busy yet completely at peace. It's both raucous and contained, meditative and ecstatic.

In this piece Bach gives us the opportunity to contemplate the cycles of nature, life, death, and renewal - a granite-like aural sculpture built on his inner assurance that we are all part of a larger, infinite pattern.

if you want to follow along with sheet music, check it out here: imslp.org

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