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J. S. Bach -- Fugue in c-minor, on a theme by G. Legrenzi, BWV 574: first fugue

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Published on Mar 10, 2012

This is one of the most interesting fugues written ever. The two themes of the fugue are inspired from Legrenzi's Trio Sonata for two violins and violone in g-minor Op. 2 No. 11 (Venice, 1655). It is believed that this fugue was written before 1708, so it is one of the early works of Bach. It is not surprising then that it has a coda in the spirit of "stylus phantasticus" of the northern Germany of 17th century, that had so much influenced Bach in his youth through the contact with the music of Buxtehude.

The fugue can be divided in four parts: three fugues and the coda. Some scholars believe that the coda was not part of the initial composition and that it was added later by another composer. But given that it fits so well the concept of this fugue (as a free in style break, like a celebration, after three densely packed fugues!) and the fact that Bach in his early works enjoyed showing his mastery of the virtuoso and expressive "stylus phantasticus", it is not difficult to imagine that it was probably Bach himself the one who included this coda since the very beginning. In any case, it makes a very nice and original, for a fugue, ending.

The theme of the first fugue is simple and austere, but Bach's genius in polyphony makes it to evolve to an exciting contrapuntal adventure on the key- and pedal-boards. The theme of the second fugue is more rich and extended and it has no apparent connection to the first theme. And then the surprise: the theme of the third fugue is nothing more than the two first themes played at the same time. They blend incredibly well! Obviously this makes the third fugue the most complicated of the three, from a polyphony point of view, with some very delicate and complex passages. The polyphonic labyrinth of the second fugue and mostly its very dramatic ending, certainly prepare us for this.

For this interpretation, I set the organ to the Kellner (1976) temperament. This temperament has been developed and proposed as the "correct" one for Bach's music by Herbert Anton Kellner, based on esoteric considerations. Today it is believed though that Bach never endorsed any mathematical tuning scheme but he rather tuned according to pragmatic criteria, such as the timbre of the instrument at hand. Since there are no large modulations in this fugue, the temperament color remains generally subtle. When the mixtures and the reeds come into play, its touch becomes more evident.

Registration:
Pedaal : Prestant 16', Subbas 16', Gedekt 8', Octaaf 4'
Hoofdwerk: Bourdon 8', Prestant 8', Octaaf 4', Open fluit 4', Quinte 2 2/3'


Here are the links for the other parts of the fugue:

Second fugue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cpg3jU...
Third fugue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF7Z7Z...
Coda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zVgx...

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