It is not known when the fantasia from the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor
, BWV542 became associated with the loosely constructed virtuoso pedal fugue which tradition has it Bach played to Buxtehude’s contemporary Reincken in Hamburg in 1720; its tuneful subject, very similar to a Dutch folktune, was used as a test in extempore fugal playing in the same city five years later. ‘The best of Bach’s pedal pieces’, wrote an early copyist at the end of it, and few could quarrel with his enthusiasm. The splendour of the fantasia, both aural and intellectual, would seem to indicate that it was written a good deal later; certainly the two contrasted ideas—mighty chords and rhetorical flourishes, and expressive, thoughtful counterpoint—are executed with masterly ease.
from notes by Robin Langley © 1993