This Ricercar primi Toni, ex G b-moll, is the 24th composition from manuscript Ms. Lynar B3. As the title mentions, it is written in the first tone, on the tonal center of g. That means it is largely what we would call g minor, but a lot more flexible, as was the case in the Renaissance. The “first tone” (primi toni) is closely familiar with the Dorian mode. It means a musical scale with a minor third, and a major sixth. In true minor tonality the sixth is minor as well. This Ricercar in the “primi toni” is a bit of a mix of a minor tonality and a Dorian mode. If you look at the first two systems of the score, you’ll see that the sixth scale constantly changes from minor (e flat) to major (e).
A ricercar is a type of late Renaissance and mostly early Baroque instrumental composition. As terminology was not very strict in that era, the term ricercar was used for different types of music. The imitative, contrapuntal variant of the ricercar was composed from the second half of the sixteenth century and onwards. It eventually develloped into the fugue. This Ricercar primi toni has already a lot of the characteristics of the Baroque fugue. It is entirely based on one theme that appears multiple times in al the four voices. There are no less then 30 occurences of the theme, some with small variations to make a progression towards another tonality. All in all, a remarkable composition, all the more when you realise that when this piece was written, Bach’s grandfather was still an early teen.
The recording was done on the sample set of the Bader-organ in the Walburgiskerk in Zutphen by Sonus Paradisi for Hauptwerk.
Anonymus, Ricercar primi toni ex G b-moll