The Bach Lottery 2: Kendall's Pick

I immensely enjoy and respect the musical guidance I am getting from Kendall Feeney. Such amazing music making and realisations and ways of thinking. I really love it.

In February we picked two of her favorite Bach Preludes and Fugues: Nos. 17 in A-flat Major and 19 in A Major from Book 1. Because she is not a surface level sort of person, we've decided to continue with these pieces for a while longer. I have no problem with skewing my Bach Lottery Rules in this case; it will take two years to get my feet wet with all 48, but I only get Kendall until July! Later I will write a longer exposé on these pieces more in depth, but it wouldn't hurt to get up some initial observations that I gleaned from February.

Ivan Bilibin
I have loved the A-flat set for some time. The Prelude is accessible a boyante and full of verve. It spends hardly any time in a minor tonality. The main challenges lie in getting the feeling of "in 1" but "accent 2" to work with the articulation of the initial sixteenth notes. Metronomic practicing is needed to get everything aligned before you can fill it with life. The Prelude definitely pushes towards the Fugue, with expectation. The Fugue has so much Romantic potential. The subject is like tolling bells and a sort of stasis effect is created by the way in which it consists of the tonic with a weak plagal cadence. Yet for all that, there are moments of intense energy. When the theme turns minor the tension is literally catastrophic, but it passes like a momentary snow flurry the second it passes. Very interesting concept of the direction of musical energy in that theme. Forward motion is the key to not making the thing plod, especially when it goes from two-part to sudden four-part texture.
The A Major set is one I've sort of been avoiding. I've heard it taken too fast by too many performers. Even the Swingle Singers did the prelude at a blinding pace. The fugue is difficult to listen to and is one of the longer, fast fugues. But if you're willing to try it out, these pieces are magnificent! The prelude actually works quite well at a slower tempo and a softer dynamic. It has that simplicity and complexity of the three-part inventions. The fugue is in fact doable. It could also take you your whole life to explore. Part of the difficulty in listening to this one is the constant rhythmic misdirection through off beat accents, in all three voices. If it is a gigue it was definitely never meant to be danced to. I'm working it though in slow motion always keeping those sixteenth note runs in the back of my mind. I'll definitely have more to say on this one later.

Up next:
Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 3 in C-sharp Major
Book 2, Prelude and Fugue 13 in F-sharp Major

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