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In many fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier , the subject is accompanied by a second distinct musical idea, known as a countersubject, which runs through the whole piece. An important prerequisite of the countersubject is that it makes musical sense stated either above or below the fugue subject invertible counterpoint. BWV , one of the most sublime fugues in the entire collection, combines a serene diatonic subject with a poignantly expressive descending chromatic line in the countersubject. Following the Baroque aesthetic of having a unified affect, one single emotional feeling, pervading an entire piece, each fugue has its own distinctly expressive content.

BWV , on the other hand, is clearly instrumental in character, and BWV conjures up the unabashed joy of an orchestral piece in the style of a French overture. Finally, Bach's treatment of the musical language itself in the Well-Tempered Clavier is nothing short of miraculous. For more than 50 years after his death, Bach's music was virtually forgotten. It was not until that the Well-Tempered Clavier finally appeared in print. Nevertheless, even during this period of neglect by the general public, there was a small group of devotees who kept Bach's music alive through private performances and the circulation of his music in handwritten copies.


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Among the most prominent members of this select circle was Baron van Swieten in Vienna. A high-ranking civil servant who was also a sophisticated amateur musician, van Swieten had acquired a choice collection of manuscript copies of music by Handel and the Bach family. Around the time Mozart left the service of Salzburg's Archbishop Colloredo in the spring of , he became acquainted with van Swieten, who proudly introduced the young composer to his collection of music by Bach and Handel.

Mozart was bowled over by the works he encountered, and immersed himself in this music whenever possible.

BBC - Music - Review of JS Bach/Shostakovich - Preludes and Fugues

I am just putting together a collection of Bach fugues - that is Sebastian as well as Emanuel and Friedemann Bach. Although these arrangements were not published during Mozart's lifetime, they were almost certainly performed privately at van Swieten's home. Mozart's exposure to Bach spurred a keen interest in his own writing of fugues, and soon he had composed several examples for solo keyboard, culminating in the powerful Fugue in C minor for two pianos, K. His immersion in Bach's fugues also enriched Mozart's compositional craft as a whole.

The final movement of the String Quartet in G, K. He settled in Vienna shortly after Mozart arrived there, and knew both him and Haydn well. He also wrote a pedagogical treatise on composition for which he devised a number of fugues as examples.


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These are primarily for trio and quartet, corresponding to the three- and four-part fugues, but there are also two quintets for the two five-part fugues and a duo for the solitary two-part fugue. Bach's compositions express musical ideas that transcend the original medium for which they were created. Hearing these four- and five-part fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier with one distinct instrument on each part allows us to experience one of tonal music's greatest monuments in an entirely new light.

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It is a privilege for us to play Bach, who wrote no string quartets. After learning a great deal from recording and performing The Art of Fugue , we now embrace the challenge of adapting our playing to music conceived specifically for keyboard. Bach's ideas in these fugues are so pure that they transcend the characteristics of the instrument for which he wrote them.

One benefit of this realization of the Well-Tempered Clavier is that separate instrumentscan make it easier for listeners to hear the various voices and the way the statements of the subject and countersubject are interwoven. Since we all play the same thematic material, we've had to try harder than ever to achieve similarity or unanimity of style and approach.

Although an exploration of all 24 major and minor keys was central to Bach's conception, both Mozart and Foerster changed the keys of some of these works when necessary to create more resonance for string instruments. And he can sparkle when he needs to; try out the fizzing Corrente of the Sixth Partita.

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Ariel Lanyi

These are performances of enormous distinction, then, and it is a pleasure to welcome Pinnock back after such an absence. Yet even they will surely admit that these slightly later studio recordings carry an extraordinary authority and panache. It only remains to add that the dynamic range of these towering, intensely musical performances has been excellently captured by DG.

His sonority is as ravishing as it is apt, never beautiful for its own sake, and graced with a pedal technique so subtle that it results in a light and shade, a subdued sparkle or pointed sense of repartee that eludes lesser artists. Again, no matter what complexity Bach throws at him, Fischer resolves it with a disarming poise and limpidity, qualities as natural as they are profound. Impossible, however, not to mention in passing his ethereal start to the set that light, bouncing staccato above a singing bass-line in No 1 , or the disconsolate, phantom yet ordered voice he achieves in No 4.

The contrapuntal flow of No 7 — initially grand, then reflective and finally free-wheeling — is realised to perfection, and what a virtuoso play of the elements he recreates in No 15! Turning to Book 2, you could hardly imagine a more seraphic utterance in No 3, later contrasted with the most skittish allegro reply. Since then she has pursued a steady and successful career as both soloist and chamber musician, with a sizeable discography to her credit. I hope that will not become the fate of this remarkable release. Her Bach has everything going for it: pianistic resourcefulness, keen polyphonic acumen, impeccable taste and an ability to imbue each Prelude and Fugue with a distinct point of view borne out of musical considerations.

You notice this from the start. Her C major Prelude unassumingly unfolds at a moderate pace, resonating less like a piano than a murmuring organ, while the C major Fugue sounds like a madrigal featuring four distinct yet unified voices with prodigious breath control. Her E minor Fugue keeps the motoric momentum in the foreground without losing melodic direction, while her intriguing interplay of voices in the F minor Prelude retains textural distinctiveness and cogency throughout. She holds interest in the long and difficult-to-sustain A minor Fugue by terracing the dynamics and incorporating myriad alternations of touch and timbre.

I look forward to Book 2. Jed Distler March This Perahia does with sovereign command, and his perceptive programme notes help illuminate the complexion of his thinking. And while Glenn Gould achieves formidable levels of concentration especially in the second of his two commercial recordings for Sony , his gargantuan personality — utterly absorbing though it is — does occasionally intrude. Perahia brooks neither distraction nor unwanted mannerism.

Yes, there are fine-tipped details and prominent emphases sample the wildly accentuated bass-line in Variation 8 , but the way themes are traced and followed through suggests a performance where the shape of a phrase is dictated mostly by its place in the larger scheme of things. The opening Aria is crystalline, lively in tone and with a distinctly singing bass-line.

The first repeat is rather softer, whereas the first repeat of the first variation incorporates various added ornaments, a trend that registers time and again through the course of the performance. Middle voices are brought to the fore in Variation 3 and where, in Variation 4, Hewitt opens boldly and softens for the first repeat, Perahia reverses the process. Perahia never strikes a brittle note and yet his control and projection of rhythm are impeccable.

He makes points without labouring them, which is not to deny either the brilliance or the character of his playing. Like Hewitt, he surpasses himself. A quite wonderful CD. One of the first things to strike the listener in this new recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations is the fine quality of Bruce Kennedy's copy of an early eighteenth-century instrument by the Berlin craftsman, Michael Mietke. Its character, furthermore, is admirably captured by the effectively resonant recorded sound, a shade too close for some ears, perhaps, but not for me.

The soloist, Pierre Hantai, is a member of a talented French musical family who studied first with Arthur Haas, then with Gustav Leonhardt. His approach to the Goldbergs is tremendously spirited and energetic but also disciplined. What I like most of all about this playing, though, is that Hantai clearly finds the music great fun to perform.

Some players have been too inclined to make heavy weather over this piece and I have sometimes been driven to despair by the seriousness with which the wonderfully unbuttoned Quodlibet Var 30 is despatched. Hantai makes each and every one of the canons a piece of entertainment while in no sense glossing over Bach's consummate formal mastery.

Other movements, such as Var 7 gigue and Var 11, effervesce with energy and good humour.

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Yes, this is certainly the spirit which I like to prevail in my Goldberg Variations. But, as I say, Hantai is careful to avoid anything in the nature of superficiality. Not for a moment is the listener given the impression that his view of the music is merely skin deep. Indeed, there is a marked concentration of thought in canons such as that at the fourth interval Var Elsewhere, I found Hantai's feeling for the fantasy and poetry of Bach's music effective and well placed such as in Var Little more need be said except that Hantai has taken note of Bach's autograph corrections to the text published in Nuremberg in or by Balthasar Schmid.

Invigorating, virtuosic playing of this kind deserves to win friends, and my recommendation is that, whether or not you already possess one or more recordings of the Goldbergs , you make a firm commitment to add this one to your library.

W. A. Mozart - KV 404a - 6 Preludes & Fugues for string trio

The Ouverture Var 16 , the Quodlibet and much else here have an irresistible esprit , a happy conjunction of heart and mind. Another triumph for an enterprising label. Nicholas Anderson April This truly astonishing performance was recorded in , 26 years after Gould's legendary disc. Gould was not in the habit of re-recording but a growing unease with that earlier performance made him turn once again to a timeless masterpiece and try, via a radically altered outlook, for a more definitive account. By his own admission he had, during those intervening years, discovered 'slowness' or a meditative quality far removed from flashing fingers and pianistic glory.

And it is this 'autumnal repose' that adds such a deeply imaginative dimension to Gould's unimpeded clarity and pin-point definition. The Aria is now mesmerically slow. The tremulous confidences of Variation 13 in the performance give way to something more forthright, more trenchantly and determinedly voiced, while Var. Variation 21 is painted in the boldest of oils, so to speak, and most importantly of all, Landowska's 'black pearl' Var. The Aria's return, too, is overwhelming in its profound sense of solace and resolution.

Personally, I wouldn't want to be without either of Gould's recordings yet I have to say that the second is surely the finest. The recording is superb and how remarkable that what are arguably Gould's two greatest records should be his first and his last. Now he confirms his appetite for the big entrance with three monuments to variation form, each rooted in its own century, yet all united by the harnessing of maximum variety, maximum discipline.

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But the instant he touches the piano such information becomes irrelevant. Certainly he can muster all the athleticism, velocity and finesse of a competition winner ready to burst on to the international scene. But like the rarest of that breed — a Perahia, say — his playing already has a far-seeing quality that raises him to the status of the thinking virtuoso.

There is, if you care to rationalise, a Russian depth of sound and eloquence of phrasing, tempered by Germanic intellectual grasp. There is also a sense of exulting in technical prowess and energy. But not once in the course of these three themes and 99 variations did I feel that such qualities were being self-consciously underlined.