Bach Lottery 6: Moving Month

Gustave Doré
As much as one can enjoy deeply involved pieces by the Baroque master during a stressful month of pianolessness, cleaning, uprooting, traveling, and then resting only to do it all over again, I have enjoyed these pieces. My observations are a little less hands-on and more statements based on visual analysis and sporadic sight-reading. Nevertheless, here's what I've got.

Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 4 in C-sharp minor: In 2008 I tried playing one WTC prelude-fugue set each month in sequential order; I got all the way to No. 4 and promptly quit. (Perhaps there was more to it than that... we were probably moving to a new city or state.) The clincher, of course, was the triple ricarcare. On the other hand, the prelude is the epitome of Fortspinnung, going to great lengths to develop a necklace of pearly eighth notes. Once again there are various metric and functional/dramatic possibilities. Great care should be taken to shape those lines towards their ultimate goals, only then add the incorrigible little ornaments. But once that Picardy Third sounds, the portal opens to a world of cosmic five-voiced wonder. To me this massive fugue rotates with planetary solemnity, and playing or listening to it is like strolling through the halls of Titanic planets. The second subject plashes like a rain of meteors and the third like the shining of sinuous constellations! Music of the spheres! Some day, I hope to give this piece the life-time of love that it deserves.

Book 2, Prelude and Fugue 8 in D-sharp minor: Sharps are good for the brain, they're like vitamins for the grey matter! I'd love to analyze this piece for its inventions via Laurence Dreyfus: Bach's stepwise theme, appearing first in the right hand, is passed to and fro with all manner of counter-subjects. The transition sections are interesting, the pattern in measure six quite enigmatic melodically. The modulation to G-sharp minor doesn't come to tonicize with metric force and has a quality of being noncommittal. Throughout the prelude, the leading tone—tonic unit is prominent, especially in the final cadence, creating a link with the fugue that also features the same notes in its theme. This fugue is extremely tasty and quite unruly, despite its seemingly tame subject. Bach shifts the tonic center of a subject mid-theme and engages in all types of enigmatic harmonic progressions including chromatic passing chords, deceptive cadences and Neopolitans. The ending coda has a sense of dense, loud drama and in this case I am tempted to ignore the Picardy Third and end in sublime dispair!

Up next:
Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 7 in E-flat Major
Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 23 in B Major

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