Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

By Johann Sebastian Bach
Arranged by Leopold Stokowski
Composed in 1705-08

The great Johann Sebastian Bach early on made his mark as a composer and performer on the organ. The D minor Toccata and Fugue is one of his earliest organ works, probably written between 1705 and 1708.

It has 2 main sections – an opening “toccata” (from the Italian “to touch”) with florid passagework and extensive improvisation, and a massive fugue made up of a 2-bar 16th-note theme repeated in various keys against a number of countersubjects.

Leopold Stokowski, the great American conductor, was so taken by the magnificence of this piece that he arranged it for a large orchestra. His arrangement highlights all sections of the orchestra – strings, high winds, low winds, brass – to give the original organ piece many different orchestral colors and sonorities (not to mention massive amounts of tonal volume!). The Stokowski arrangement is featured in the Disney movie Fantasia. Its famous opening theme has become a part of popular culture and been used in many films (horror and otherwise), as well as plays, videos and videogames.