The Art of Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach

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music, composition, Johann Sebastian Bach, The Art of Fugue, performance, ensemble


Composition | Music | Music Education | Music Pedagogy | Music Performance


The Art of Fugue, by Johann Sebastian Bach, is a work which in itself is the culmination of the development over many years of the fugue. I like to think of the work as both an intellectual and a musical work. By this, I mean that, although Bach systematically develops the theme with all the contrapuntal devices, the work can be enjoyed as simply pure music. The listener need not understand, or be aware of, the contrapuntal devices that Bach uses to enjoy the music. The work is not merely a technical, pedantic exercise in fugal writing, as might possibly be the case with a lesser composer. As Tovey says, "Bach is incapable of not making music."

The Art of Fugue was written in open score, and Bach did not specify on what instruments the work was to be played. The work can be played on keyboard instruments, or by various instrumental combinations. However, there are some indications that the work may have been intended to be performed on the organ. For instance, the flowing lines of the music, and the long sustained notes, are "organ-like" in nature. Also, the first edition was ended with an organ chorale prelude.

On an instrument with a clear ensemble, such as the Schlicker organ, a great deal of registration changes need not be made. However, I have tried to vary the registration enough so that there is variety in sound level and tone, while at the same time, trying to avoid too many changes, so as not to interrupt the flow of the music.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status


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