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  • J.S BACH The Art of the Fugue
  • J.S BACH The Art of the Fugue
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J.S BACH The Art of the Fugue
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Reference: AV9818

  • Jordi Savall
  • Hespèrion XXI

More than two centuries after its composition, Johann Sebastian Bachs The Art of fugue is still a work that is full of mystery. Too “modern” for its own time, not understood by the Romantics, unjustly regarded as purely theoretical by certain musicologists at the beginning of the twentienth century, it is now finally recognized as one of the highest musical achievements of all time. Its rightful recognition as such has not, however, put and end to the various debates, nor has it resolved certain problems about its performance, the choice of instruments or instrumentation, the order of the counterpoints, the problems concerning the unfinished fugue, and naturally, the question of articulation, tempo dynamics, ornamentation, etc.

Additional Information
Intèrprets

Hespèrion XXBruce Dickey cornetto, Paolo Grazzi oboe da caccia, Charles Toet trombone, Claude Wassmer basson, Jordi Savall viole de gambe soprano, Christophe Coin viole de gambe altus, Roberto Gini viole de gambe ténor, Paolo Pandolfo viole de gambe basseDirection: Jordi Savall

Llista de temes

Contrapunctus IContrapunctus 2Contrapunctus 3Contrapunctus 12aContrapunctus 12bContrapunctus 4Canon 17 alla duodecima in contrapunto alla quintaCanon 16 alla decima contrapunto alla terzaContrapunctus 5Contrapunctus 6 in stylo franceseContrapunctus 7 per augmentationem et diminutionemContrapunctus 8 – Contrapunctus 9 alla duodecimaContrapunctus 10 alla decimaContrapunctus inversus 13 bContrapunctus 13aContrapunctus 11Canon 14 per Augmentationem in contrario MotuCanon 15 alla ottavaContrapunctus 18

Informació

realitzada el març 1986 a la Col·legiata de St. Jean-Baptiste à Roquemaure (França)

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Catàleg complet

Description

More than two centuries after its composition, Johann Sebastian Bachs The Art of fugue is still a work that is full of mystery. Too “modern” for its own time, not understood by the Romantics, unjustly regarded as purely theoretical by certain musicologists at the beginning of the twentienth century, it is now finally recognized as one of the highest musical achievements of all time. Its rightful recognition as such has not, however, put and end to the various debates, nor has it resolved certain problems about its performance, the choice of instruments or instrumentation, the order of the counterpoints, the problems concerning the unfinished fugue, and naturally, the question of articulation, tempo dynamics, ornamentation, etc.

Historically, two options have been considered: one involves the use of keyboard instruments, adding a second one for counterpoints 19a and b (which replace counterpoints 13a and b); the other involves the use of an instrumental ensemble of the period which would be able to respect the original tone. It is more than likely that Johann Sebastian Bach knew works like the Fugues et caprices a quatre parties by François Roberday (1660) since Forkel, his principal biographer, relates that before composing The Art of fugue, he made a careful study of the earlier works of the French organists who were masters of harmony and fugue, according to the tradition of the time. We should stress two important points, both of which are mentioned in the Preface to Roberday’s work. The first is that having an open score in four parts does not exclude the possibility of playing this music on the organ or harpsichord. Tradition in fact dictated that contrapuntal works written for these instruments should be noted in this way “since the Parts being all together, and yet distinguished from one another, may the more easily be examined separately and the relationship they each have to one another more easily be seen”. The second point is that “the other advantage was that if one wished to play the Pieces of Music on viols or other similar Instruments, each player would find his Part separated from the others”.

While there have been numerous harpsichordists and organists who have proved that it is possible and entirely appropriate to play The Art of fugue on their instruments, there has not yet, to our knowledge, been any attempt to recreate this music with an instrumentation based on an ensemble of viola da gamba and wind instruments of the period. We therefore felt justified in trying to reinterpret this magnificent work through the sound of an ensemble for which the largest repertoire of contrapuntal chamber music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was composed (with works by W. Byrd, J. Dowland, O. Gibbons, H. Purcell, S. Scheidt, E. du Caurroy, E. Moulinié, F. Roberday, etc.). This consort of viols is the only ensemble which allows a faithful reading of the original text and optimal realisation in sound, since the transparency and clarity of the articulation on these instruments allows a very balanced perception of the different voices without one part obscuring the others. For some we have added a consort of four wind instruments of the period (cornetto, oboe da caccia, sackbut and bassoon).

The programme is conceived in such a way that its structure forms a two-sided mirror, reflecting not only the progression and coherence of the different pieces but also their variety. The instrumentation is determined on the one hand by formal criteria (highlighting the counterpoint, as for example the imitation between the voices) and, on the other, by the characteristics and technical possibilities of the instruments themselves. This instrumentation, while reinforcing the individual character of each fugue, also allows for variety of colour and dynamic intensity, which are essential to the audience’s optimum perception of a work which may at first seem difficult to follow but which, thanks to its enormous emotional content, is paradoxically able to move even listeners who have no knowledge of the rules of counterpoint.

JORDI SAVALL
Basel, 1986/2001
Translated by Jacqueline Minett