Bach Lottery 9: Trills and Other Wonky Rhythms

K. Nielsen
  • Prelude 11 in F Major from Book 1 – Trills are... exciting! And this piece reminds you that they are insanely difficult to pull off, especially in the left hand and especially what with having to interpret the initial and concluding turns. These moments of alternating ornaments are separated by rolling waves of beautiful sixteenth-notes in desperate need of phrasing. I can't help but wonder, what with the trills and cascading notes, whether or not Chopin had this particular piece in his head when he wrote his own Prelude 23 in F Major.
  • Fugue 11 in F Major from Book 1 – If the 12/8 of the preceding prelude is the granddad of compound meters, the 3/8 of this fugue is like the newborn babe. Technically not even a compound meter, the visual associations between these two pieces gives me a sense of a fugue of short-winded but active energy. Its energy also feeds into its many ascending and descending scales, some of which would reach out of the range of Bach's keyboard if they only could (mm. 25–26). Theme transformation takes place about halfway through the piece and gives it a bit of an improvisational feel. The last four measures present some amazing rhythmic/metric//hemiola challenges that could be interpreted in a variety of ways.
  • Prelude 6 in D Major from Book 2 – The rhythmic havoc of triple-duple meter co-mingling in this piece is enough to make any camp counselor stay awake at night. (Oh, metaphors!) These complexities extend over a good four pages of challenging music all set in a rich, fanfare style. It reminds me of Bach's Fugue 19 in A Major from the first book, in the way the second half of the piece bursts forth in glorious sixteenth notes. I particularly love the definitive "recapitulation."
  • Fugue 6 in D Major from Book 2 – This piece is in the vein of the more antique style of a Gabrieli organ canzona. Such a tight and succinct theme, built specially for fast entrances. It's always a challenge in contrapuntal writing to bring out the themes, but this fugue gives way to a litteral deluge of stretto-ed entrances, more a shifting texture than any sort of recognizable theme, that it is simply a joy to keep playing no matter how lost you might feel.
Up next:
Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 8 in E-flat/D-sharp minor
Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 21 in B-flat Major

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