Toccata and Fugue in D minor (tr Nowlin)

From Wind Repertory Project
Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (trans. Ryan Nowlin)

This work bears the designation BWV 565.

General Info

Year: c. 1705 / 2015
Duration: c. 8:55
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Organ
Publisher: Neil A. Kjos Music Company
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $150.00   |   Score Only (print) - $15.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I
Bassoon II/Contrabassoon
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet I-II
E-flat Contra Alto Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
Euphonium I-II
String Bass


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is one of the greatest of the masterpieces that Bach wrote for the organ. A brilliant slow/fast introduction is followed by the fugue, the subject of which is a short figure in sixteenth notes. From the free and showy style of the toccata and the huge climax at the end, it is evident that the work was conceived as a virtuoso concert piece rather than a work for a church service.

- Program Note from Program Notes for Band

Bach’s most popular organ work was supposedly composed shortly after his arrival at Weimar in 1708, when he already had earned a reputation as an organist. It belongs to Bach’s early composition exercises as he was still assimilating his predecessor’s styles. This Toccata and Fugue not only illustrates Bach’s exceptional composition technique, but also the extensive possibilities of the organ. The Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, originally written for organ, has since been arranged for virtually every musical performance medium from symphony orchestra to jazz band. Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Lucien Cailliet, and Sir Henry Wood all have made their own arrangements for orchestra, and no less than seven arrangers have created transcriptions for band. John Philip Sousa, Erik Leidzén, Denis Wright, and Hans Felix Husadel, among others, have provided band arrangements of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

- Program Note from Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 (c. 1708), is a two-part musical composition for organ, probably written before 1708. It is known for its majestic sound, dramatic authority, and driving rhythm. This piece is perhaps most widely known by its appearance in the opening minutes of the 1940 Disney classic Fantasia in which it was adapted for orchestra by the conductor, Leopold Stokowski. It also has a strong association in Western culture with horror films.

The first part of this work is a toccata, the name of which is derived from the Italian toccare, meaning “to touch.” It represents a musical form for keyboard instruments that is designed to reveal the virtuosity of the performer. Bach’s approach to the toccata is typical in that it has many fast, arpeggiated sections (notes of a chord played in a series rather than simultaneously) and scalar passages up and down the keyboard. Otherwise, it is generally free form and gives the composer much latitude for personal expression. During this time period, toccatas often served as introductions for fugues, setting the stage for the complex and intricate composition to follow.

The fugue -- a technique characterized by the overlapping repetition of a principal theme in different melodic lines (counterpoint) -- is the second part of this composition. It reflects the particular popularity of the form during the late 1600s and early 1700s. Bach utilized the fugue in many of his compositions but most famously in solo organ pieces, instrumental works, and choral cantatas. This particular work is not only the best known of Bach’s fugues, but also the most famous of any composer.

- Program Note from Encyclopedia Brittanica

It is difficult to imagine a Johann Sebastian Bach composition that is better known than his Toccata and Fugue in D minor. In both the original form for organ and in the multiple arrangements for other instruments and ensembles, it is known world-wide through its use in countless movies, television shows, commercials, haunted houses, and most notably in the Walt Disney film Fantasia.

It is not difficult, then, to imagine the shock that must have accompanied musicologist Peter Williams’ 1981 allegation that the work was not written by Bach! Williams was bothered by a number of stylistic inconsistencies in the work, which included an excess of parallel voices and somewhat primitive harmonies. His doubts were echoed by several other scholars who found the work to be less sophisticated than they would have expected from this master of the Baroque period. Bach specialist Christoph Wolff was not persuaded by their arguments, however, and mounted a vigorous defense in his authoritative 2001 biography. Wolff points out that the work was most likely composed when Bach was a young man, probably nineteen or twenty, and that any immaturity in the writing is most likely attributable to this fact. He additionally points out that Bach was working in Arnstadt, Germany, at this point in his career, and that many of the idiosyncrasies of the work can be attributed to the poor condition of the organ he had to play there.

Although we may never conclusively know who wrote the Toccata and Fugue, there is no disputing its popularity. It has been transcribed countless times for a wide variety of ensembles, including symphony orchestra and concert band. Because the organ produces sound in a manner very similar to the instruments of a wind ensemble, organ works are ideally suited for transcription for this medium. Many settings of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor present the music as though it was originally conceived for a large ensemble, with extended passages scored for just a few solo instruments. Marine Band Assistant Director 1stLt Ryan Nowlin has taken a somewhat different approach with his version, evoking the power, sonority, and visceral excitement that one might experience if hearing the work performed on the biggest pipe organ in the world.

- Program Note from U.S. Marine Band concert program, 14 March 2016


State Ratings

  • Alabama: Class AA


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • North Suburban Wind Ensemble (Libertyville, Ill.) (Don Shupe, conductor) - 5 March 2023
  • Youngstown (Ohio) State University Wind Ensemble (Michael Scott Butler, conductor) - 16 October 2022
  • Texas A&M University (College Station) Wind Symphony (Timothy Rhea, conductor) - 18 October 2020
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) - 23 October 2019 (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) Wind Ensemble (Donald Peterson, conductor) – 28 October 2016
  • Butler University Wind Ensemble (Michael J. Colburn, conductor) - 22 April 2016
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) – 14 March 2016

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