BACH 76364

The Musical Offering, BWV 1079
Heinrich KLEMM,
Sauer Organ, Konzerthalle Ulrichskirche, Halle (Germany)

Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080
Johannes-Ernst Köhler
Hildebrandt Organ, 1747, Naumburg


Hildebrandt organ 1764 Naumburg


The Musical Offering

1   Trio Sonata
2   Three-part Ricerare
3   Five Canons on the Royal Theme
4  Five Canons on variations of the Royal Theme
5  Six-part Ricerare

Art of the Fugue

6  Contrapunctus 1
7  Contrapunctus 2
8  Contrapunctus 3
9  Contrapunctus 4
10  Contrapunctus 5
11  Contrapunctus 6 in stile francese


Art of the Fugue continued

1  Contrapunctus 7
2  Contrapunctus 8
3  Contrapunctus 9
4  Contrapunctus 10
5  Contrapunctus 11
6  Contrapunctus 12 Canon alla Ottava
7  Contrapunctus 13 Canon alla 12ma
8  Contrapunctus 14 Canon alla 10ma
9  Contrapunctus 15 Canon per Augm.
10  Contrapunctus 16 a3 rectus
11  Contrapunctus 16 a3 inversus
12  Contrapunctus 17 a4 rectus
13  Contrapunctus 17 a4 inversus
14  4-part Fugue, incomplete

J.S. Bach was, and remains the acknowledged master of counterpoint, the related arts of Canon and Fugue. On these two discs we present Bach's ultimate works in both these fields: The Musical Offering, which is in effect an exposition of the Canon, and the Art of the Fugue.

In 1747 Bach, his health starting to fail, made the long, over 400-mile journey from Leipzig to Potsdam. His son Carl Philip Emanuel was Harpsichordist to the King; contemporary accounts indicate that the King having made several requests finally insisted that Bach visit him. Our programme notes quote the contemporary press report: Bach was received with greatest respect by the King, who gave him a theme on which to improvise. In addition to his ex tempore elaborations, Bach promised to elaborate further on the King's theme and send him a copy. After his return to Leipzig, Bach sent the work, engraved at his own expense, to the King in three instalments, with no performance or instrumentation instructions, no program order, and the canons were simply one-liners which the players would need to interpret. So it is up to the producer and performers to settle on a program order, and instrumentation.

We start with the Trio Sonata, as a "warm-up" piece or Overture, in which the Royal Theme gradually makes cautious appearances. The main canonic material consists of two groups of five canons, the first, canons on the Royal Theme, the second canons on derivatives or variations of the Royal Theme. At the beginning and the end of the two groups of canons come the two Ricercari, first the Three-part, lastly the magnificent Six-part.

We present this work entirely on the organ. On the day following Bach's concert with the King, he was invited to improvise on several Potsdam town organs, accompanied by the King and his retinue, so our organ performance has a precedent! For this work, a relatively modern organ is used, benefitting from the utmost clarity.

For the Art of the Fugue we move to the Wenzels Church in Naumburg, for performance on the historic organ 1747 built by Zacharias Hildebrandt, a pupil of Bach's longtime friend and colleague, Gottfried Silbermann. On the organ's completion, Bach and Silbermann were invited to conduct the final test of approbation.

Baroque Music Library