My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

From rollicking dance to fugal hymn - Bach's D major Prelude and Fugue

I know, I know. I'm missing a prelude and fugue here. I'm terribly sorry but I do believe that I'm just going to have to skip the C-sharp minor set for now. You can read about why on here. I have decided that I just want to move on for now because I am missing Bach terribly and this whole episode with that particular prelude and fugue is, well, just not happening.

So ahem, moving on now...

The fifth prelude and fugue from Bach's second book of the Well-Tempered Clavier is a fabulous contrast in many ways to the previous set. Out of the gnarled, tangled key of C-sharp minor we find ourselves in one of the sunniest, robust keys that I know of, D major. The prelude is truly hilarious to me with its mash-up of styles. I hear a gigue with its compound, dancing and skipping rhythms, a French overture or some time of fanfare with the crisp double-dotted rhythms, a toccata with its fanciful, fast runs of sixteenth notes and also some sort of graceful smooth dance, with the more square legato, step-wise figures. Put them all together and you have a mighty fun dance that leaves me, quite frankly, out of breath.

Here is the Prelude in D major:

The fugue transports us from the country dance scene to the church. (Perhaps all of those rambunctious dancers needed to atone for some of their merriment.) This 4 voice fugue is extraordinarily simplistic, using very few rhythms and employing few fancy subject treatments. No backwards or upside-down subjects, or subjects stretched out and slowed down. Here you just get the subject repeated over and over again, one on top of another. And since few rhythms are used, much of the time the movement is homophonic, meaning the voices move together. It reminds me a bit of hearing hymns in church. Unlike the prelude, there is a solemnity and simplicity to this fugue that helps me to put aside all of the excess energy of the day and to focus on the simple beauty of a simple subject.

Other posts in this series:

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