Bach Lottery 4: Fugues of Running Rivulets

During this project I must constantly remind myself that I am attempting to simply get my toes wet with pieces one could spend a life time exploring. As my time is consumed in the cleansing fire which is the Master's thesis, the spare moments which I can give to playing piano tend to involve the pieces I'm memorizing for Piano Juries in June. The thing is that I keep wanting to memorize new ones, because I'm realizing that in memorization, that fourth step in rhetorical composition, one can truly discover what the piece is saying and you can finally begin to bring it to life.

Arthur Rackham
I promise this is the last time, Kendall! I drew Prelude and Fugue 15 in G Major from Book 2, and fell deeply in love with it. It happened to also be a favorite of Kendall's and so now I'm working on three prelude-fugue pairs for June. I am fascinated by the challenge of making patterns of 16th notes into melodies that live and breathe. Both the prelude and the fugue are so full of figuration in need of careful phrasing. They also delight in harmonic and melodic mischief, especially in the frustration of leading tones and weakening of cadences until the end. They are very exciting pieces.

Prelude 21 in B-flat Major from Book 2 had a lot in common with the other pair in the way that both fugues featured steady streams of notes in sequencing patterns. The fugue balances this embellished arpeggio with a characterful, stepwise antecedent. At first some of the more striking harmonic changes seem a little uncalled for, until you get up the courage to tackle the prelude. I've been using some of Laurence Dryfus's Bach and the Patterns of Invention for my thesis, in which the C Major Invention is worked over in a thematic/rhetorical way that is truly fascinating. This prelude seems particularly rife with rhetorical inventions and developments: rolling compound meter themes bursting with associations and reminders and hints, their order swapped around, endings becoming beginnings. It truly deserves a lot of time and love. Happy May!

Try it on harpsichord!

Up next:
Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 14 in F-sharp minor
Book 2, Prelude and Fugue 12 in F minor

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