12.03.2012

Bach Lottery 11: Morning Mood

Rackham – WTC keeps the evil toads away.
I'm taking a little break from my second bout of paper grading to reminisce on some Bach preludes and fugues. The two minor tonalities go great with the sopping, the-clouds-have-come-down-to-live-amongst-us weather (at least we don't live in the Spokane I've-been-stabbed-with-an-Ice-Knife winters anymore). Amidst all the challenges of UCSB classes I've found some true solace in playing through these pieces in the early morn: brain and finger calisthenics, a sense of polyphonic truth, direction, and community, and even a reminder of why I wanted to study music in the first place.

Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 10 in E minor
The first important sheet music book I ever received came from my Aunt Sharon, my first piano teacher. She had gone to a huge music store in another state and returned with two books for me: one of piobaireachd canntaireachd music (I was also riding high on Celtic music) and one called Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. It was here that I first learned Brahms' Intermezzo in A Major, Beethoven's Für Elise and "Moonlight" Sonata mvt. 1, and Bach's Prelude in C Major (the one with Czerny's obscene added measure), and I first came into contact with this piece, entitled mysteriously Prelude and Fugue X. The texture of the prelude is surprisingly difficult: a sustaining, melismatic arioso melody over a steady, obligato bass with punctuating eighth-note harmonies in the alto range. I still haven't found a way to synthesize all those different pieces into a cohesive whole. The texture is fighting for supremacy. I've always loved that Presto explosion near the end — at this point the bass figure displays its utter dominance and permeates through all parts. The fugue is chromatically spicy and surprisingly unruly for being so compact. Those moments of descending scales doubled at the octave are especially exciting. The ending is humorously abrupt, a shy, Piccardy-third arpeggio, like an unruly toddler acting out and then suddenly switching into mortified embarrassment (sounds just like me at Costco).

Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 12 in F minor
This key always seems to be a little more tragic than the previous one. Is it because all those flats look like tears? :'( Probably not. The polyphonic writing of the prelude reminds me of the Sarabande from the C minor Partitia. The dramatic pedal point at the end really steers the whole piece to a choppy close. If the fugue of the last set was chromatic in a quirky way, the accidental-ridden features of this fugue seem almost out of control. The Baroque filagree approaches the concentrated opulence of a Eastern Orthodox icon as it frequently buries the theme beneath thick layers of sixteenth notes. I found it very difficult to keep this one going forward, given the bite-sized, but concentrated, nature of the accompanying motives. I really couldn't Piccardy third this one. It didn't seem right.

Up next:
Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 18 in G-sharp minor
and
Book 1, Prelude and Fugue 24 in B minor

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