Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor

From Wind Repertory Project
Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (trans. Nicholas D. Falcone)

This work bears the designation BWV 582.

General Info

Year: ca. 1712 / 1969
Duration: c. 13:25
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Organ
Publisher: Southern Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $230.00   |   Score Only (print) - $40.00


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

  • Bass Drum


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Though one of the great organ classics, the Passacaglia in C minor was first composed for the double-manual harpsichord. Despite the fact that the key of C minor is constantly present throughout all 20 variations and much of the fugue, Bach maintains a freshness in each variation which distinguishes it from the next. Albert Schweitzer advised that "Each of the twenty sections ... must have its own characteristic tone colour (but) ... no colour must be sharply differentiated from its predecessor or its successor."

The work opens with a stately eight-bar theme followed by the 20 variations and an overwhelming tutti. The double fugue is built on the first part of the passacaglia theme in combination with a countertheme in eighth notes. The work closes with a massive climax of suspended harmonies and full instrumental sonority.

- Program Note from Program Notes for Band

From 1708 to 1717, J. S. Bach served as a member of the court orchestra and organist to the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst in Weimar, Germany. As organist to the Court, Bach wrote profusely for organ during these years. Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor was composed during this period, most likely between 1708 and 1712. While the original manuscript to Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor' is lost, one extant score includes the annotation cembalo ossia organo indicating that Bach may have intended the work for either pedal harpsichord or organ. A surviving manuscript of the first forty-nine measures of the Passacaglia once owned by Bach’s son C.P.E. Bach includes heavy ornamentation that is common in much of the harpsichord music of the time. Today, the work is most commonly performed on organ.

A passacaglia is a musical form usually set in triple meter in which a simple eight-bar melody called an ostinato or ground bass is repeated throughout the work while a series of continuous variations are layered over it. The C–minor Passacaglia consists of a set of twenty variations. The fugue follows immediately and without pause, the ground bass from the passacaglia now serving as the subject for the fugue.

Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor is considered by historians and critics to be one of Bach’s greatest keyboard compositions. Composer Robert Schumann once described the variations in the Passacaglia as “intertwined so ingeniously that one can never cease to be amazed.”

The work has been orchestrated numerous times, including by composer Ottorino Respighi and conductor Leopold Stokowski. Stokowski’s 1922 orchestration of the Passacaglia and Fugue for the Philadelphia Orchestra is arguably the most famous transcription of the work. The wind band transcription is scored by Nicholas D. Falcone, Director of Bands at the University of Michigan from 1926 to 1935.

- Program Note from Crane Concert Band concert program, 5 October 2016


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

  • Alabama: Class AA
  • Florida: VI
  • Georgia: VI
  • Louisiana: V
  • Michigan: Senior High AA
  • Minnesota: I
  • North Carolina: VI
  • Tennessee: VI
  • Texas: V. Complete
  • Virginia: VI


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • The Hartt Omni Wind Ensemble (Hartford, Conn.) (James E. Jackson III, conductor) – 14 December 2019
  • University of Nebraska (Lincoln) Wind Ensemble (Carolyn Barber, conductor) – 11 December 2019
  • Concordia College (Moorhead, Minn.) Band (Peter Haberman, conductor) – 19 November 2017
  • Texas Christian University (Fort Worth) Wind Symphony (Bobby R. Francis, conductor) – 6 December 2016
  • State University of New York, Potsdam, Crane Concert Band (James T. Madeja, conductor) – 5 October 2016
  • The Heart of Texas (San Antonio) Concert Band (Mark Rogers conductor) – 2015

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Bach, J.; Falcone, N. [1969]. Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor [score]. Southern Music Co.: San Antonio, Tex.
  • Girsberger, Russ. Percussion Assignments for Band & Wind Ensemble. Volume I: A-K. Galesburg, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2004, 16. Print.
  • Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582. Wikipedia. Accessed 29 July 2023
  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 25.