1: Contrapunctus I - Simple Fugue on the Main Subject
Total playing time 76:07
Total playing time 76:07
"The Art of the Fugue" (Die Kunst der Fuge), as its name implies, was intended as, and effectively provides, a complete treatise on the art of fugal composition, dealing with every type of fugal treatment from the simplest to the most complex.
Bach implied without any ambiguity that "The Art of Fugue" was written for the keyboard. Nor had anybody ever doubted this until the appearance of Graeser's edition. As Tovey put it in his edition of this work (Oxford University Press), "no rule of counterpoint is kept more meticulously by Bach than the confinement of the part-writing to the stretch of two hands throughout."
Bach and his contemporaries would have been accustomed to a two-manual harpsichord with 16' 8', 4' and 2' stops; this would have provided ample scope for "terrace dynamics", the movement between manuals or the combination of both, through which the different fugues could be given registration to suit their mood and style, and through which also fugal entries and internal dynamics could be highlighted. In the present performance, the arrangement by Bruno Seidelhofer for two pianos allows duplication in the base or top line as well as the highlighting of fugal entries thus replicating the effects possible on a two-manual harpsichord.
It might be thought that the piano, even two pianos, would lack the strength which comes from the plucking action of the harpsichord. In this case, nothing could be farther from fact. These are incredibly powerful performances, in which tremendous strength contrasts with peace and quiet, as the nature of each Contrapunctus demands. Throughout the entire work, there is total clarity, each fugal entry being clearly heard.
We would never have expected that a two-piano version of The Art of the Fugue would be among our favorite performances – but such has indeed been the case for many years – we never tire of it. These powerful and insightful performances bring the music to life as pure enjoyment, and demonstrate admirably the contrapuntal arts of the Fugue's greatest exponent.
Part of this famous Duo's success is that, as husband and wife, they were accustomed to playing together, in concert performances as well as in their Viennese home. They are totally in sympathy with one another, in phrasing, tempi and mood. We invite you to set aside academic concepts of authenticity (surely a concept unknown to Bach himself!), and listen to our samples as pure music.