When, in 1739, Bach published his Clavierübung
Part III, he flanked a miscellaneous collection of liturgical settings, chorale preludes and duos with a monumental prelude at the beginning of the volume and tripartite fugue at the end. The Prelude and Fugue in E flat major
, BWV552 were not always connected to each other. Although in the same key, and indeed copied as separate works in the eighteenth century, it was only in the early nineteenth, and with the specific advocacy of Mendelssohn, that they were performed in sequence as a pair. The prelude, one of the two largest Bach wrote for organ, is a masterly mixture of stately French and concertante Italian elements, while the fugue (treating the three subjects successively in three different metres and in three different combinations) is based on a theme in common currency whose fortuitous closeness to Croft’s hymn tune ‘St Anne’ has attracted that name (in English-speaking countries at least); Bach, if he knew the tune at all, might have come across it in Handel’s use of it in the Chandos Anthem ‘O praise the Lord with one consent’.
from notes by Robin Langley © 1993