We are putting this on the list of piano music that is too damn hard right now, but stuff I will eventually be able to play.  Watch his hands after the first repeated section – what is going on is that he is alternating quickly between two sets of notes a 6th apart with the same hand.  To the piano student, this is akin to trying to wipe your ass with the wrong hand while wearing mittens filled with bees.  My piano teacher assured me that, like with all things, practice makes it easier.

A little background on what a Passacaglia is and an example of what J.S. Bach does with it.

Passacaglia – A musical form of the 17th and 18th centuries consisting of continuous variations on a ground bass and similar to the chaconne.


There are 20 variations in BWV 582/1. The first begins with a typical C minor affekt, “a painful longing” according to Spitta, similar to the beginning of Buxtehude’s Chaconne in C minor (BuxWV 159).[9] Numerous attempts have been made to figure out an overarching symmetrical structure of the work, but scholars have yet to agree on a single interpretation.[10] Particularly important attempts were made by Christoph Wolff and Siegfried Vogelsänder.[spelling?][11] Some scholars have speculated that there is a symbolic component to the structure of the work: for instance, Martin Radulescu argues that BWV 582/1 is “in the form of a cross”.[12]

There is agreement among most scholars that the Passacaglia builds up until its climax in variation twelve.[citation needed] This is followed by three quiet variations, forming a short intermezzo, and then the remaining five variations end the work.

Bach performer and scholar Marie-Claire Alain suggested that the 21 variations are broken down into 7 groups of 3 similar variations, each opening with a quotation from a Lutheran chorale, treated similarly to the Orgel-Büchlein written at a similar time:[13]

  • Bars 8–12, the top part spells out the opening notes of “Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland”

  • Bars 24–48, a cantilena spells out “Von Gott will ich nicht lassen”

  • Bars 49–72, the scales are a reference to “Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar”

  • Bars 72–96, recalling the “star” motif from “Herr Christ, der Ein’ge Gottes-Sohn”

  • Bars 96–120, ornamented figure similar to that in “Christ lag in Todesbanden” accompanies theme in the soprano then moving successively to alto and bass

  • Bars 144–168 “Ascending intervals in bass recall the Easter chorale “Erstanden ist der heil’ge Christ”.

And yes, this was an organ piece originally.