Classical #4: Bach Fugue #21 BWV 866

EDIT update: whoops, there was a problem with the audio in the youtube video link below. Should be fixed now with a new recording, here is the new link: https://youtu.be/DJnrGuVB6Nw

I’m still working about as much as when I did a Hymn a Day! Bach fugues are some of the most difficult music written, but have their own transcendent beauty. Bach wrote them for very musically experienced audiences, and to an untrained ear they can be tough to make sense of. Bach Fugues have a Subject, a type of musical motif, and this subject is duplicated many many times in a weaving style through the entire piece. He always states this subject at the beginning, but then duplicates the subject many many times, passing through or overlapping each other between hands and even fingers within one hand. Your job is to catch that subject, even when more than one is playing at the same time! The beauty of this kind of music comes from the interplay of voices all pulsing and throbbing harmonically at the same time. This particular fugue from the Baroque era (1650-1750) has three parallel copies (“voices”) of the subject, although playing it is made much harder because not only are there three simultaneous voices, but each voice has two parts that are played differently. Now you know why Bach Fugues are rarely performed–their difficulty levels are daunting for nearly all but the most advanced pianists.

I am going to provide you with a video youtube link here https://youtu.be/DJnrGuVB6Nw of the Fugue played on organ (you finally get to actually see me play, not sure if that’s a good thing or not :). In a few days, I will put up the piano version here, along with the corresponding Prelude (Bach Fugues are all paired with a Prelude–much easier, but still difficult–in the same key).