Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor (Bach)

From Wind Repertory Project
Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (trans. Donald Hunsberger)

This work bears the designation BWV 582.

General Info

Year: 1703-1713? / 1968 / 1975
Duration: c. 13:00
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Organ
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts - $100.00   |   Score Only - $10.00


Full Score
C Piccolo/Flute III
Flutes I-II
Oboes I-II
English Horn
Bassoons I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinets I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet (or B-flat Contrabass Clarinet)
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Flugelhorn
B-flat Trumpets I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombones I-II-III-IV
String Bass


In Parts:

  • E-flat Baritone Saxophone, Fugue, m.19, b.2 and 3: Should be F#, G# (M2 lower)

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."

In his transcription for wind ensemble, Donald Hunsberger follows this advice by employing woodwind voices in groups of three and brass voices (mellow vs. brilliant) in fours.

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

The Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor was composed sometime during Bach’s second residence in Weimar, c. 1708-17. Albert Schweitzer writes: “The Passacaglia and Fugue was written in the first place for cembalo (harpsichord) with pedal and was later transcribed for organ.” The theme, which is presented in 20 variations and the fugue, consists of two parts: the first half which Bach borrowed from a Trio en Passacaille by Andre Raison, and the answering second half which is original material.

Bach was fairly consistent in closing each statement of the theme with an authentic cadence (c minor: V-i); despite these brief attempts at finality there remains a flow of continuity provided by a frequent rhythmic acceleration during the closing measures of the variation, anticipating the rhythmic pattern of the following variation. An additional feeling of continuity is supplied through the contrapuntal treatment of the inner voices, seldom allowing these voice to become stagnant.

The instrumentation selected provided a wealth of solo colors in both the woodwind and brass sections; octave doublings and timbre couplings have been utilized to employ the outer tessituras of each instrument. There has been no direct attempt to reproduce the vast tonal resources of the pipe or electronic organ although the transcriber bore in mind the coupling principle inherent in the overtone mechanism of the organ.

- Program Note excerpted from notes by Donald Hunsberger


State Ratings

  • Alabama: Class AA
  • Arkansas: V
  • Georgia: VI
  • Kansas: VI
  • Louisiana: V
  • Maryland: VI
  • Michigan: Senior High AA
  • Mississippi:VI-A
  • New York: Concert Band VI
  • South Carolina: VI
  • Virginia: VI


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Massachusetts (Amherst) Wind Ensemble (Matthew Westgate, conductor) - 20 October 2023
  • Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisc.) Wind Ensemble (Andrew Mast, conductor) – 14 October 2023
  • Bentonville (Ark.) High School Wind Ensemble (Timothy Hendrix, conductor) - 10 April 2023
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Darren Y. Lin, conductor) - 2 April 2023
  • University of Tulsa (Okla.) Wind Ensemble (Andrew Anderson, conductor) - 18 April 2022
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Orchestra (Mason St. Pierre, conductor) - 28 February 2022
  • University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg) Wind Ensemble (Catherine Rand, conductor) - 7 October 2021
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory Wind Symphony (Steven Davis, conductor) – 29 September 2019
  • Shenandoah Conservatory Wind Ensemble (Winchester, Va.) (Timothy J. Robblee, conductor) – 21 September 2019
  • Manhattan School of Music (N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Kevin Fitzgerald, conductor) - 18 September 2019
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Mark Scatterday, conductor) – 6 October 2018
  • Colorado Wind Ensemble (Denver) (David Kish, conductor) – 11 February 2018
  • Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisc.) Wind Ensemble (Andrew Mast, conductor) – 15 October 2016
  • University of North Texas Symphonic Band (Dennis Fisher, conductor) – 17 September 2015
  • Illinois State University (Normal) Wind Symphony (Martin Seggelke, conductor) - 28 September 2014
  • The College of New Jersey Wind Ensemble (David Vickerman, conductor) - Ewing, NJ 25 April 2014
  • San Francisco Wind Ensemble (Martin H. Seggelke, conductor) - 27 October 2012
  • Knightwind Ensemble [Milwaukee, Wisc.] (Erik Janners, conductor) - 1 April 2012
  • High School Symphonic Band [Interlochen, Mich.] (Frederick Fennell, conductor) - 14 August 1981

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Bach, J.; Hunsberger, D. (1968). Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor: For Symphonic Wind Ensemble [score]. G. Schirmer: New York.
  • Miles, Richard B., and Larry Blocher. (2010). Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 1. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 878-885.
  • 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.