One of the advantages to our new flat is that I’ve got the nice electric piano that used to belong to my Uncle (but was languishing in the garage at the old place due to not fitting up the stairs) in here. I’ve been taking full advantage of it to learn some pieces I always wanted to play. Here’s a Bach 4 part Fugue:

I loved this one as soon as I heard the Well Tempered Clavier (played by Glenn Gould, who’s a lot better at it than I am). It just amazes me that anyone can even write a four part fugue that complies with all the complicated rules for how fugues should be constructed (and this one does) at all, nevermind also produce something so musical and satisfying at the same time.

Fugues start off like rounds where each voice enters in turn a few bars apart with the same melody (called the subject). After that, things get more complicated – another melody (called the answer) is introduced, and the subject is usually repeated in numerous ways (upside down, backwards, etc.), the different voices layered on top of each other producing complex and ever-changing harmonies.

The Well Tempered Clavier is made up of two books, each of which is a collection of 24 preludes and fugues in every major and minor key. This is the A minor fugue (no. 20) from the first book. It’s one of the longest – but I think the length gives the music more weight than the shorter fugues and makes the climax it builds to near the end more dramatic. I hope you like it.

I’m not actually playing it from memory… I have the score scanned into a PDF file which is open on the laptop, and the USB cable in the foreground goes to a foot pedal configured to work as a “Page Down” button so that I can turn the pages with my feet. (They’re not doing anything else; keyboard instruments in Bach’s time mostly didn’t have pedals so I don’t use the piano pedals while I’m playing Bach either). I suspect the score is actually doing the same job as Dumbo’s feather at this point… I’ve played the piece so many times now that it must surely all be imprinted on my brain, but if I can’t see the music in front of me, I freak out and forget how to play it.

(Apologies for the audio quality in some bits – I was recording direct to my laptop from the piano’s headphone socket which started off sounding fine but went a bit weird for reasons I’m not sure of…).


2 thoughts on “Bachtime

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