A Companion to 'The Art of Fugue' (Die Kunst der Fuge) [of] J. S. Bach

A Companion to 'The Art of Fugue' (Die Kunst der Fuge) [of] J. S. Bach

A Companion to 'The Art of Fugue' (Die Kunst der Fuge) [of] J. S. Bach

A Companion to 'The Art of Fugue' (Die Kunst der Fuge) [of] J. S. Bach

Excerpt

The student should make his own analysis of Die Kunst der A Fuge; but his results will need verifying, and the following pages will serve his purpose.

Theorists are on solid ground when they tell us that the scheme of Die Kunst der Fuge (hereinafter called K. d. F.) involves some discrepancy between matter and form; but it is a mistake to assign this discrepancy to the technical difficulties Bach deals with. None of them are difficulties to him; with some of the apparently artificial schemes even the difficulties for ordinary mortals have been grossly overrated; and the first element of conflict comes where we least expect it--in the simplest fugues. For Bach uses the same subject in all; and a subject capable of the most elaborate stretti cannot be the kind of subject Bach would normally choose for a simple fugue. In Das Wohltemperirte Klavier (hereinafter called W. K.) the fugues that are as simple as Contrapunctus I and Contrapunctus II are the E major, Bk. I, No. 9; and in Bk. II the C major, No. 1; the E minor, No. 10; the F major, No. 11; the F minor, No. 12; the G major, No. 15; and the A major, No. 19. All the others have some such features as countersubjects, identifiable recurring episodes, or stretti; and even the E minor and G major of Bk. II have rudimentary countersubjects, while the recurring episodes in the F minor are very prominent. Now try to imagine any of these fugues with a serious subject!

One of the paradoxes of K. d. F. is that Bach found the making of simple fugues on a severe theme so interesting that he wrote no less than four without allowing himself any of the devices for which that theme was designed. These first four fugues are as remarkable a tour de force in composition as . . .

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