The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080, by Johann Sebastian Bach

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Introduction

"Über dieser Fuge..."
Structure of The Art of Fugue
The "unfinished" fugue
About the realization
How to listen to The Art of Fugue
About the narratives below

 

The Art of Fugue

Simple Fugues
Contrapunctus I  (3:52)
Contrapunctus II  (3:12)
Contrapunctus III  (3:49)
Contrapunctus IV  (3:18)

Canon alla Ottava  (4:12)

Stretto Fugues
Contrapunctus V  (2:24)
Contrapunctus VI  (4:20)
Contrapunctus VII  (2:49)

Canon alla Decima  (4:44)

Double and Triple Fugues
Contrapunctus VIII  (5:17)
Contrapunctus IX  (2:46)
Contrapunctus X  (3:29)
Contrapunctus XI  (6:58)

Canon alla Duodecima  (3:33)

Mirror Fugues
Contrapunctus XII + inversus  (3:36)
Contrapunctus XIII + inversus  (4:23)

Canon per Augmentationem  (4:16)

Quadruple Fugue
Contrapunctus XIV  (11:52)

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Contrapunctus X: double fugue, 120 bars, 3:29   

After the lighthearted nature of Contrapunctus IX comes a double fugue with significant connections to other parts of the cycle.

To get things started, Bach introduces a new subject, a distant variant of the third subject of Contrapunctus VIII.

This subject has a "jabbing" character that I feel lends itself well to the sharply marcato interpretation on the great organ I have given it here. It enters rapidly in all four voices, using rectus and inversus forms. But then, at 0:36, the AOF subject variant from Contrapunctus V returns:

This introduces a central section of the fugue with a flowing, pastoral nature, in clear contrast to the rather declamatory opening. Snippets of the main subject try to return periodically (listen for them in the swell organ), and eventually they do take over, leading the fugue back to its more sharply defined nature -- both with both components singing in swirling arcs around one another.

This fugue is closely related to other parts of the cycle in crucial ways. The tumbling episodic material at 1:20 and 1:58 strongly recalls the later episodes of Contrapunctus V. Even more significant is a very brief passage at 0:36, right at the transition between the "outer" and "inner" part of the fugue. It goes by so fast as to seem almost an afterthought, but here it is, bridging the parts in the bass voice:

AOF addicts will recognize this as a nearly verbatim quote of the first part of the second subject of Contrapunctus XIV! Moreover, in the soprano above it is the main AOF subject, in the variant in which it will appear in the satisfactory completion of the final fugue. Given that this bridge could have been written following correct fugal procedure in a number of ways, I would speculate (and that's all this is) that this fragment is a hint by Bach to the end of the cycle, and the manner in which the final theme would have appeared.

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