During his Weimar years , Bach brought the prelude and fugue to maturation, penning a series of large, ambitious pieces that relied strongly on concerto style. It was in his organ music, then, that Bach developed the prelude and fugue and expanded it to its architectural limits. To round out the recording, Ms. Bach appears to have composed the Prelude in D Major as an independent piece, too, but then paired it with the Fugue in D Major as an afterthought.
It is complete in itself. The influence of Vivaldi is clear in the Prelude and the Fugue, in the crisp, angular themes, the driving motoric rhythms, and the carefully spaced cadences that mark principal structural junctures. The Prelude begins with a single-voice passaggio , or passage-work section, followed by the main body of the work, an exuberant concerto movement.
The Fugue is based on a repeated-note theme, a repercussio gesture reminiscent of North German organ fugues. Here it is used as the basis of an imitative concerto movement that moves vigorously to a climactic fermata near the end. The pause is followed by a closing series of stretto entries, in which the theme appears in overlapping pairs, first between the pedal and the alto, and then between the soprano and the alto.
Bach appears to have liked the Prelude and Fugue in G Major a great deal, for he returned to it twice during the Leipzig years to add further refinements to it.
Around he came back to the work once again, abandoning the idea of a middle movement and adding new refinements to the Prelude and the Fugue. This he accomplished while writing out a new copy of the work, apparently for use by his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, in his audition for the organist position at St. Although the structure of both the Prelude and the Fugue continue to show Vivaldian traits in the use of ritornello and episode sections, for instance , one sees the new influence of vocal idioms in the pliant, expressive, primarily conjunct melodic materials and a tightening of structural elements.
In the Prelude, for instance, there are only four ritornello sections, and the episodes are intensely contrapuntal. In the Fugue, the lengthy middle section, for manual alone, is followed by a return to the main subject, now accompanied by a new and powerful descending countersubject. Like the Prelude in B Minor , it displays the strong influence of vocal writing this time polychoral style, seen in the alternating chords at the beginning and a structure that features four ritornello sections and highly imitative episodes.
In Leipzig, Bach appropriated the Fugue for use with his newly written Prelude. Together, the two pieces form an effective and powerful C-minor pair. The Prelude shares many features with the Prelude in B Minor : its thematic material is similarly pliant and characteristic of vocal music, and its structure also features four ritornello sections. The Fugue, by contrast, is very different from that of the B-minor work. Additional optional dances known as galanteries were often added to ease the transition between the normally grave sarabande and the frequently raucous gigue.
All of the dances following the prelude are composed in binary two-part form. The task of the first part is to find its way to the key of the dominant five scale tones up from the home key and land on a satisfying cadence there in its final bar. The fact that each of these two parts is normally played twice seemed to matter little to the Baroque ear. Dance suites were a popular genre of keyboard music in the Baroque period but writing for a solo instrument like the cello, that could play only a single melodic line, posed distinct challenges.
Keeping the listener from nodding off meant writing musical lines that constantly engaged the ear in new ways, mixing it up with scale figures that alternate with broken chords, passages on the lowest strings trading off with melodic climaxes high up on the fingerboard, and above all with salty dissonances finding resolution in satisfying cadences.
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But hold on. How do you play harmonies — which is to say chords — on an instrument that only plays a single melodic line? Multi-string chord-playing is possible , of course, but writing multiple stops in every bar is a sure way to send your performer into physio looking for multiple finger splints.
The answer is to imply the harmonies you want your listener to hear by slyly emphasizing — and frequently returning to — important fundamental chord notes and tendency tones so that one actually begins to hear a multi-voiced harmonic structure beneath all the fancy filigree. This is how harmonic tension and anticipation is created and when done well you find yourself expecting a certain chord pattern to follow another one — even if neither is stated outright. This the monetary magic of Quantitative Easing applied to harmonic voice-leading.
While every listener will have his or her favourites from among the 42 individual dance movements in this collection of suites, the following have etched their way into my musical memory in a way that I cannot, in all honesty, fail to mention. The opening Prelude of the Suite No.
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Its nobility of sentiment far transcends what one might expect to admire in a simple repetitive pattern of broken chord figures and connecting scales. The key of G is important here, as the bottom two strings, low G and the D above it, are open strings on the cello and Bach plays to the natural resonance of these two strings in crafting this prelude. The result is a rocking, undulating pattern of tones that evokes a sense of being at peace with the world.
It features the same rocking pattern of wide-stretching broken chords, made all the more sonorous by the stabilizing presence of the low G used as a pedal tone beneath increasingly dissonance harmonies striving above it.
Bach-Shostakovich: Bach-inspired Piano Works - Recordings Part 2
For sheer grit and dogged resolve it would be difficult to beat the headlong thrust of the Courante from the Suite No. This dance turns the cello into a veritable street fighter with bravado to spare. The perky lilt of the Courante from the Suite No. Among the sarabandes, that of the Suite No. But the Sarabande from the Suite No. Consisting entirely of 8th notes leaping widely over the entire range of the instrument, it manages nonetheless to tell a gripping story full of harmonic tension and much anticipated tension release.
There really is no contest among the galanteries. Its easy- going mood and self-evident harmonic drive make it the sort of thing you hum to yourself in the shower. The gigue with the street cred to really jig it up big time is the one from the Suite No. The huge leaps in this movement give this dance movement a specially memorable swagger that stays in the memory long after it has finished. And finally, a special note of admiration is due to the cellist himself, who in the Suite No.
The result was a collection of Bach fugues arranged for string trio and for string quartet. Combined with the built-in phrase repetition in the theme itself, the result is almost dance-like. Dmitri Shostakovich was the ugly duckling of 20th-century composers, a thickly bespectacled, chain-smoking musical intellectual whose scores, while contemporary in their sound palette, often bristled with the contrapuntal intensity of a previous age.
No stranger to the larger forms of symphony, concerto, and opera, he focused increasingly at the end of his life on the more intimate genres of the song cycle and the string quartet. Following the diagnosis of a heart condition in , his works became darker in spirit, beset with a tragic undertow no doubt influenced by the experience of his declining health. His 15th string quartet was his last, composed in , the year before his death. Written in the dark key of E-flat minor, it unfolds as an uninterrupted sequence of six slow movements, all marked A dagio.
The first movement Elegy opens with an eerily subdued fugal exposition in the low range of the instruments. A second theme, based on a C major arpeggio, eventually emerges but brings scant cheer, as the entire movement, the longest of the work, never rises above the dynamic level of m p.
In the course of this movement these violent gestures play against an absent-minded waltz, to curious effect. The short Intermezzo features a similarly odd pairing between an exuberant, almost ecstatic cadenza in the first violin and scattered melodic musings in the other instruments. Genuine sustained lyricism arrives for the first time in the Nocturne , as the viola pours out its soul against a delicate tracery of arpeggios in the other instruments.
Played with mutes, this movement rarely features more than three instruments playing at a time, giving it a quality of nocturnal intimacy. There is no mistaking the grave, commemorative tone of the following F uner al March , in which we hear the pure minor chords and dotted rhythms of traditional funeral music projected with surprising aggressiveness in both chordal declarations and solo laments.
The concluding Epilogue sums up the previous emotional terrain with cadenza-like flights of fancy alternating with dull echoes of both the first and second themes from the first movement. The late quartets of Beethoven are known for raising the bar in terms of formal experiment and range of expression, but the first of these, the Quartet in E flat, Op.
Tuneful in the most popular manner, its expressive aspirations rarely exceed those of the common air or folksong, and its four separate movements are laid out in the most traditional of formal patterns: a sonata-form first movement, theme-and-variations second movement, followed by a scherzo and a sonata-form finale. What this quartet does have in common with many late-period works is the extravagant dimensions of its theme and variations movement—it clocks in at over a quarter of an hour in length, in a league with the variation movements of the late piano sonatas Opp.
The six variations that follow unfold calmly with an admirable simplicity. The Beethoven of contrast and drama returns in the scherzo. Its theme is a mischievous collection of little gestures comprised of dotted rhythms and purring trills, creeping up the scale in stages, answered imitatively by its mirror opposite coming down in the opposite direction. The opening and closing sections of the movement swing wildly between clever counterpoint and rampaging unisons while the trio alternates between breathless scurrying and rustic swagger.
Related 6 Grand Fugues: Fugue No. 4 in B Minor
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