Please DONATE to help with maintenance and upkeep of the Wind Repertory Project!

Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor (arr Nowlin)

From Wind Repertory Project
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (arr. Edward Elgar; trans. Ryan Nowlin)

This work bears the designation BWV 527.

General Info

Year: c. 1723 / 1921 / 2016
Duration: c. 8:10
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Organ
Publisher: Neil A. Kjos
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $150.00   |   Score Only (print) - $40.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Contra Alto Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Snare Drum
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

If music were architecture, Bach’s big organ works would be cathedrals. More than any of his other compositions, these works evoke the inescapable feeling that one is viewing a physical structure. Every part is linked together, so that the whole thing stands immensely upright. Yet there is the distinct feeling that every single line must be there -- if something were missing, the structure would fall apart. If this Fantasia and Fugue were physical architecture, it might be the country estate of a gentleman. It would be a place where enjoyment and pageantry were as important as nobility and seriousness of purpose, where elegance and wealth stood side by side with the natural beauty of the forest.

Edward Elgar’s stately march Land of Hope and Glory from the Pomp and Circumstance marches is often played at graduation ceremonies and could possibly be the most recognizable bit of classical music from England other than the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Elgar brings his unique stylistic approach to this transcription, which displays very much the same orchestral sound as many of his major works. However, the source of the music remains unmistakable: Bach, whose genius was perhaps the most influential in Western music.

- Program Note by Richard Floyd for the 2015 Texas All-State Concert Band

The many great organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach have been transcribed for countless instrumental ensembles in the two and a half centuries since his death. The legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski brought this practice to perhaps its zenith with his many powerful adaptations of Bach’s keyboard work for full symphony orchestra. The most famous of these is his transcription of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which was featured in the classic 1940 Disney film Fantasia and has since become ubiquitous in both the classical and popular repertoire. Some of the transcriptions made of Bach’s works by other composers and conductors have sought to evoke the sonorities of the organ utilizing the combined forces of a large symphonic ensemble, while others seek to re-imagine the notes by employing the fullest range of colors available through the instruments of the ensemble. Stokowski’s approach was decidedly in the latter category, as was that of British luminary Edward Elgar when he set upon transcribing Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in C minor for orchestra in 1922.

During his lifetime, Bach was not regarded as highly for his compositions as he was for his unmatched skill as an organist. He was an astounding improviser and a widely respected interpreter of the great works of the era. His own secular organ works are now counted among the best ever composed for the instrument, and he often performed his own music at the keyboard. Bach likely composed the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor during one of his two tenures as organist in the small town of Weimar in what is now present-day Germany. Bach first arrived there in 1709 at the behest of Duke Wilhelm Ernst and quickly impressed both the Duke and the residents of the town with his prodigious skills as an organist. The encouragement he received to showcase his abilities as a performer led to the composition of many of his most substantial works for organ, including the Toccata and Fugue in D minor. The composition of the Fantasia and Fugue possibly came toward the end of Bach’s tenure in Weimar, but recent scholarship also leaves open the possibility that it was composed a bit later, in 1723, around the time of his completion of the famous keyboard cycle The Well-Tempered Klavier. Approximately two hundred years later in England, some of Bach’s compositions for organ would be reimagined for orchestra.

As a young composer, Edward Elgar made many transcriptions for various ensembles of the music of the master composers with which he was well acquainted, including Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Mozart and many others. These arrangements, usually abridged, were created for specific occasions and concerts given by friends and colleagues and helped his own maturation as a composer. He eventually turned all of his energies to the composition of his own original works, but kept many of his sketchbooks of these settings. When his wife died in 1920, Elgar’s inspiration began to dry up, and he once again returned to his sketchbooks and arranging the music of other composers. That same year, Elgar met with German composer Richard Strauss to talk about working to heal the international rift caused by the First World War. The two composers had been casual friends for many years, and discussed an idea to collaborate on a new transcription of Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in C minor for orchestra; Strauss would set the Fantasia and Elgar the Fugue. Elgar completed his portion the following year, but Strauss did not follow through with his part of the project. Rather than discard his work, Elgar completed the Fantasia himself, and the new arrangement was premiered with great fanfare in 1922 at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester.

Elgar’s treatment of Bach’s work was decidedly a contemporary approach, as he described in a letter to his friend and organist Ivor Atkins dated June 5, 1921, “I have orchestrated a Bach fugue in modern way -- largish orchestra -- you may not approve ... Many [arrangements] have been made of Bach on the ‘pretty’ scale & I wanted to show how gorgeous & great & brilliant he would have made himself sound if he had had our means:’ The Marine Band’s Assistant Director Captain Ryan Nowlin has taken Elgar’s colorful and dramatic treatment for orchestra as the starting point for this arrangement for band, crafted specifically for “The President’s Own."

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


State Ratings

  • Arkansas: V


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • "New Music Reviews." The Instrumentalist 75.3 (Dec. 2020/Jan. 2021): 34. Print.
  • Perusal score