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Art of Fugue, The

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Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (trans Kenneth Amis)


This work bears the designation BWV 1080.


General Info

Year: 1740s / 2004
Original Medium: Clavier
Duration: c. 93:30
Difficulty: IV-VII depending on movement (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Amis Musical Circle
Cost: Complete Score and Parts - $840.00   |   Score Only - $63.00   |   Individual Movements (Score and Parts) - $70.00   |   Individual Movements (Score Only) - $12.00


Movements

1. Contrapunctus 1 - 4:00
2. Contrapunctus 2 - 2:45
3. Contrapunctus 3 - 3:30
4. Contrapunctus 4 - 4:15
5. Contrapunctus 5 - 3:15
6. Contrapunctus 6 - 4:00
7. Contrapunctus 7 - 2:50
8. Contrapunctus 8 - 6:00
9. Contrapunctus 9 - 3:00
10. Contrapunctus 10 - 4:15
11. Contrapunctus 11 - 5:00
12. Contrapunctus 12 - 7:00
13. Contrapunctus 13 - 5:30
14. Contrapunctus 14 - 10:30
15. Four Canons - 27:30 (18:45 without repeats)


Instrumentation

Full Score
Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe
Bassoon I-II
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Alto Sax I-II
Bb Tenor Sax
Eb Baritone Sax
Bb Flugelhorn
Bb Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Trombone III (Bass)
Euphonium
Tuba
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Chimes (Tubular Bells)
  • Cymbal (crash, medium and large suspended)
  • Marimba
  • Orchestra Bells (Glockenspiel)
  • Tam-Tam
  • Timpani
  • Vibraphone


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Art of Fugue was begun in the last decade of his life and represents the last great collection by the master composer. In this work, Bach explores various contrapuntal possibilities through the construction of several fugues and canons which show a level of sophistication and variety that remains unparalleled to this day.

By the time of his death in 1750, Bach had overseen much of the engraving of the work. However, his family still made some critical errors in delivering the first publications early in 1751. Today, most scholars agree that The Art of Fugue is a harpsichord work consisting of fourteen fugues and four canons all in the same key (originally D minor) and all utilizing the same motto theme.

Contrapunctus I through IV are simple fugues. Contrapunctus V through VII make extensive use of the technique known as stretto along with melodic inversion, and are appropriately called stretto fugues or counterfugues. The next four fugues are double and triple fugues in invertible counterpoint. Following these are Contrapunctus XII and XIII which are called mirror fugues. Each one of these fugues is actually a pair of fugues, the first being called "rectus" and the second "inversus." Each fugue in a pair is the perfect mirror image of the other, not only melodically but harmonically and contrapuntally as well. Contrapunctus XIV, a quadruple fugue, remained incomplete at the time of Bach’s death. In the autograph manuscript, there is a note written by C.P.E. Bach stating, "N.B. While working on this fugue, where the name B.A.C.H. appears in the countersubject, the composer died."

Whether Bach died before completing the work or the last section of music was somehow lost is not known for sure. Bach’s family decided to include the chorale, Wenn wir in hochsten Noten sein, written in the final days of the composer’s life, as sort of compensation for the incompleteness of the last fugue. Since the chorale has no place, technically or aesthetically, within The Art of Fugue, it is not included with this transcription. Alternatively, a plausible completion to Contrapunctus XIV has been provided here by Kenneth Amis.

Three of the canons show imitation at the intervals of an octave, tenth and twelfth, while one of the canons displays remarkable ingenuity by presenting imitation in both contrary motion and augmentation. Bach’s original rendering of this canon is almost completely different and possesses its own unique beauty. Although this older version is generally not considered to be a part of the final collection, it has been transcribed and included in this publication for use at the music director’s discretion.

By 1750, fugue writing had gone out of style and The Art of Fugue did not receive the commercial success that his family had hoped. Nevertheless, The Art of Fugue took the idea of contrapuntal design to a new level and represents the work of a seasoned composer at the height of his artistic and intellectual genius. Never before nor hence has there been such a fusion of beauty and logic in the exploration of the principles of counterpoint.

- Program Note by Kenneth Amis


Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


Audio Links


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project


Works for Winds by this Composer


Resources

  • Bach, J.; Amis, K. (2003-2004). The Art of Fugue [score]. Amis Musical Circle: Norwood, Mass.