Bach Lottery 8: Minor Syncopations

E. Hull - Cú Chulainn avoids his hit and
run situation by carrying a magic spear...
This month's Bach Lottery comes late because I took my family out of town for Labor Day – at which time I was bodily run down by a very angry man on a bicycle, literally hit and run style. I don't remember much, but I have a black eye from his shoulder, a tire track across my leg, and more bruises and scratches every day. In the word of my generation: suck! I'd like to be more pissed off at the unfortunate twist my vacation took, but I was also in the process of reading about Cú Chulain's heroic wounds inflicted in the Táin Bó Cúailgne, single-handedly keeping back an entire army, slaying thousands, etc. Can't complain too much. :)

Book 1, Prelude 16 in G minor:
  • I feel a bit dramatic in the opera tradition with the opening of this piece - a dash of funeral lament marching underneath the trilling ululation of the sobbing wind! The lengthy trill certainly builds tension right off the bat and I find it difficult to keep the energy going in the tamer, polyphonic counterpoint that waddles around to a cadence afterwards.
  • Hello syncopated motif:  ♬ ♪ in duple time. The shift to the relative major further links the piece with the penultimate Invention 14 in B-flat Major. But the three-voice texture makes for some very tricky finger gymnastics.
Book 1, Fugue 16 in G minor:
  • The theme grafts together two seemingly disparate elements: an initial disjunct figure with tasty minor seconds, and a rocking, lulling placation, the rhythm of which draws a parallel with figures from the Prelude.
  • The modulation to the relative major is almost an afterthought, a product of melodic inertia carried over from a tonic cadence.
  • Once again, stupendous finger work, especially to bring out the snaky theme.
  • The theme holds tension, and the only rest we have from it is a lengthy sequential section (mm. 24–27).
  • I love the final strettos and the final chords should be quite grand.
Book 2, Prelude 24 in B minor:
  • It's actually marked Allegro in the ms, yet I take that with a grain of salt given the complaints of CPhE Bach, Quantz and others that people keep playing Allegros too fast and Largos too slow. For this piece I prefer a steady, modern Moderato.
  • We get the syncopated motif from the above prelude, coupled with all manner of tied notes  and off beats that it's dizzying! Measure 58 sounds singular for its startling metrical simplicity.
  • Sweet ending. I enjoy a little quasi improvisizione, a little lingering on the silences as you wonder what stinger chords are coming next.
Book 2, Fugue 24 in B minor:
  • Well constructed theme: a little eighth-note action outlines the minor tonality and tonicizes B before embarking on the more difficult and ultimately open-ended journey up to the sixth, fifth, fourth, third, and petering out into a big question mark.
  • Trill subjects always stand out to me for their confounding difficulty. Luckily Bach seems to get over saturated with the trill counter subject (mm. 21–25 is back and forth trilling) as it disappears after the first third of the piece and is instead replaced by a fun 4-3 suspension cs.
  • One of my favorite moments is the entrance of the subject in D major (m. 35), plucked out of the blue and dragging the whole texture up out of the murky bass register.

Up next:
Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 11 in F Major
Book 2, Prelude and Fugue 6 in D Major

1 comment:

  1. I'm only several weeks behind, but I love this. I'm running off to go listen.


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