WTC I/5 in D major Prelude 

    from Siglind Bruhn
J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier
In-depth Analysis and Interpretation

I/5.1.1 The prelude-type

Underneath its virtuoso surface structure, the D-Major Prelude is strongly determined by harmonic processes. Its sixteenth-note pattern does not develop motives; any recurrences are transpositions which occur exclusively in connection with analogies in the harmonic development.

 

I/5.1.2 The design of the prelude

The first cadence ends on the downbeat of bar 3, after a harmonic progression from the tonic (bar 1) via ii7 and V7 (bar 2) back to the tonic. This cadential close comes with a – very subtle – structural break.

The harmonic progression which follows brings a modulation to the dominant key. During this modulation, the right-hand ornamental line seems to resemble that of the first cadence (compare bars 3 and 4 with bar 2), and its end is an exact transposition of the previous ending bar (compare bar 5 with bar 2). As before, this cadential close again signifies the completion of a structural unit.

There are altogether eight closed harmonic progressions (note that each phrase begins with the second sixteenth-note in the right-hand pattern and ends on a downbeat):

 

bars

1 – 3d

D – D

bars

14 – 20d

D – G

bars

3 – 6d

D – A

bars

20 – 22d

G – G

bars

6 – 12d

A – E

bars

22 – 25d

G – D

bars

12 – 14d

E – D

bars

25 – 35

D – D

It seems worth mentioning at this point that this prelude, like several others from the first volume of the WTC, derives from a much shorter model in Bach's Note Book for Wilhelm Friedemann. The original version contains twenty-two bars. Of these, bars 1-17 appear unchanged in bars 1-17 here, and bars 19/20 from the original can be found in bars 27/28 of the WTC version. An interesting question is therefore whether the basic binary form of the Wilhelm Friedemann version has only been extended, or whether the addition of bars 18-26 changes the structure.

No portion of the D major prelude is repeated literally. There is, however, a striking five-bar symmetry, in that the beginning of the piece is restated in the middle of the prelude in the subdominant key (compare bars 1-6d with bars 20-25d). The modulation from tonic to dominant which takes place in the second phrase thus serves, in its transposition launched from the subdominant, to return to the home key in the manner of a typical Baroque recapitulation.

Besides this there are several further analogies:

-

The three-bar modulation in the second section recurs as a "bracket" in the subsequent portion: compare bars 3-5d with bars 6/7 and 10-11d.

-

The beginning of this modulation then reappears once more at the outset of the ensuing section: compare bars 3-4m with bars 14-15m.

-

A further correspondence includes: two and a half bars built on a pedal note, followed by another one and a half bars which conclude the modulation (compare bars 8-12d with bars 16-20d). The bass line of the two passages differs slightly while the right-hand part is an almost exact transposition, with only a tiny adjustment in the last half bar.

 

I/5.1.3 Practical considerations for performers

The choice for the tempo in the prelude should be made after considering the following two aspects:

-

The bass line is composed as a hidden two-part structure – this might indicate that behind the given time signature of 4/4 an alla-breve pulse should be made perceptible

-

The treble shows a pitch pattern which is easily unmasked as an ornamentation of broken chords. A melodious treatment of this line would mislead the listeners who will expect a true melody which then does not materialize.

The appropriate tempo is therefore fairly fluent: fast enough to give the impression both of a half-bar pulse and of a non-melodious, arabesque-like right-hand patterns.

The corresponding articulation is legato or, better, quasi legato for the right hand. The left hand plays non legato; because of the obvious rests in the bass part, this indication is more important for the touch and coloring of the notes than for their actual length.

Exceptions from the patterns established in bar 1 only begin with bar 27 and become more considerable from bar 32 onwards. Here, a peak-note line in the right hand is marked as a suddenly emerging melodious upper voice. Due to the features of this line – syncopated rhythm and keynote / leading-note / keynote (do-si-do) formula – legato playing is indispensable here. (This can either be done by changing 4-5 on each of the three syncopations, or by playing these notes with 4, 5, 4 right away). At the same time, the newly created "tenor" should sound non legato. The same holds true for the second half of bar 34 where the "soprano" presents again the typical closing-formula while the simultaneous quarter-notes in the left hand continue the non legato touch.

The only ornaments appearing in this prelude are the two arpeggios in bars 33 and 34. They invite the same questions as those asked in the C minor prelude:

-

Is the top note of the arpeggiated chord primarily a melodic note, or

-

is it primarily part of the chord, with no more melodic value than any note in the middle register of this chord?

The answer, as can easily be seen from the score, will be different for the two cases. In bar 33, the treble D is both an immediate continuation of the preceding melodic motion and the point of departure for the continuing line. In bar 34, however, it is actually the bottom note C# which is the logical target of the run in the preceding bar, while the upper-register Bb is only a chord note. This Bb is, admittedly, a chord note of high tension, representing the diminished seventh of this chord and moving up chromatically to the B natural in the chord which follows. Yet it is very important to realize that both these peak notes do not carry the melodic flow which can rather be traced like this:

 

bars

32 . . . . . .

33 . . . . . . . . . . .

34 . . . . .

35

F2 E2 D2 C#2

D2.....................(D1)

C#1 D1 D2 C#2

D2

Recognizing this melodic progression is particularly vital for a performer because it will influence the execution of the two arpeggios:

-

In the first arpeggio (bar 33), the melodic note D should sound on the beat, together with the bass note A, while the remaining notes of the arpeggiated chord follow swiftly.

-

In the second arpeggio (bar 34), however, the melodic target note is the C# (at the bottom of the chord) which, according to the rules of Baroque ornamentation, will at any rate fall on the beat; the top note Bb sounds here at the end of the broken chord, slightly after the actual downbeat.

 

I/5.1.4 What is happening in this prelude?

The first two bars establish the key of D major with a simple cadence. The harmonic curve contains no unexpected features; the subdominant harmony, here represented by a ii7 chord, is reached in the first half of bar 2, followed by the dominant and the resolution onto the tonic. The dynamic curve in this section is thus still very soft and may resemble something like this:

bars

1

2

3

p

mp-

p

The ensuing modulation builds up slightly more tension towards a climax, in the first half of bar 4, on the inverted seventh chord which brings the shift from one key area to the next. After this harmony, the tension subsides gradually until the resolution on the downbeat of bar 6.

 

bars

3

4

5

6

p

mp+

mp -

p

The next bars represent a transposition of the preceding ones, with a similar climax in the first half of bar 7. However, the last three notes in bar 7 announce a change which materializes in the F# pedal extended for two and a half bars. During these bars (bars 8/9), the tension which had just begun to decrease after the climax, rises again. This rise is more gradual than the former increases in tension because it is not triggered by an active harmonic step but rather by the persistence of the pedal note.

Bar 10 which ends the pedal is at the same time the transposition of bar 5. In keeping with this structural analogy, the tension-decrease should end on the downbeat of bar 11 where the target harmony of this modulation, the E minor chord, is reached. Yet Bach decides not to settle on this harmony. As if the target key had been reached too suddenly after the buildup over the pedal, he adds another bar which confirms the E minor tonality (bar 11). Then, with a swift turn, he reverts to the key of D major which is again confirmed by an extra bar on the same tonic (see bar 12 = modulation back to D, bar 13 = remain on D).

These two bars, which in the harmonic development represent a modulation of their own, thus appear really like an appendix to the previous progression. The entire segment, expressed in terms of dynamics, will appear somewhat like:

bars

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

p

mf -

mp+

mf -

mf

mp+

mp -

p+

p

A process roughly similar to that described above can be found in the following section. The first bar is yet another version of the active part of the modulation (compare bar 14 with bar 3, in octave displacement). After a renewed climax in the first half of bar 15, the tension begins to fall but is suspended in its descent by a pedal of two and a half bars on B (bars 16-18). Here, the hidden two-part structure which had so far characterized the bass pattern is replaced briefly by a broken chord pattern, thus giving these two bars the even larger frame of whole-bar pulses. Bar 18, which concludes the pedal, seems to lead to a new key (A minor); yet this again is not established but passed through on the way to G major. However, this time there are no repetitions of the two target harmonies. As in the corresponding bars above, this final small-scale modulation sounds like an appendix to what preceded.

 

bars

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

p

mp+

mp

mp+

mf

mp

p

The recapitulation of the first five bars should, of course, also retrace the dynamic outline from the beginning of the prelude; in other words:

 

bars

20

21

22

23

24

25

p

mp

p

mp+

mp

p

The last section of the prelude begins with two bars which prepare the final pedal on the dominant. Unlike similar final pedals in many other preludes, this dominant bass note is not preceded by its leading-tone. Here, instead, this leading-tone seems made up for in the middle of the pedal (compare bar 30 beat 2 with bar 31) when it combines with virtuoso peak pitches in the right hand and thus creates a very strong emotional climax. After this interruption, the dominant pedal continues – partly as a real note, partly implied under the cadenza-like setting of the right hand in bars 33/34 – and only resolves onto the tonic in the very last bar of the piece.

For the dynamic design this means a steady increase, with only slight inflections on the surface in those bars where the harmony seems to come to a halt, i.e. bars 30/31 and bar 33. The overall dynamic development in this section may be described as follows:

 

bars

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

p

mp

mp

mp+

mf

mf

mf +


bars

32

33

34

35

poco f

poco f

poco f +

f

The following diagram attempts to capture the dynamic layout within this prelude:

(ex. 46)

 

 

 

WTC I/5 in D major – Fugue

 

I/5.2.1 The subject

This subject is roughly one bar long. It commences after one quarter-note rest on the second beat of bar 1, ends on the downbeat of bar 2, and consists of one indivisible phrase. Its pitch pattern contains a predominance of steps, only interrupted by one major-sixth leap in the middle of the phrase. This leap is not one of the so-called "high-tension intervals".

The rhythmic pattern within the subject includes three kinds of note values which differ considerably from one another: the longest (the dotted eighth-notes) are six times as long as the shortest (the thirty-second-notes)! Further along the composition, quarter-notes provide a fourth note value.

It is interesting – and important – to see that this particular rhythmic organization bears an allusion to a definite musical genre of that time. The almost constant presence of the dotted-note group (in this case the dotted eighth-note plus its complement, one sixteenth-note), interspersed with ornament-like groups of very fast note values, is typical of the French overture. The fact that this fugue is modeled on such a distinct character piece accounts for most of the particularities which would, without this background, seem somewhat disconcerting in a fugue.

The subject's harmonic background is that of a simple progression, with the sequence T S D7 T (ex. 47).

 

All musical aspects in this subject unite in favoring one note for the climax: the dotted B in the middle.

-

Harmonically, this B represents the active step (the subdominant);

-

melodically, it is reached in the sudden interval leap of a major sixth;

-

rhythmically, it represents a surprisingly long note value after the bustling beginning.


While the tension-rise before this climax sets out from the keynote in complete relaxation and escalates in almost no time, the subsequent resolution of the tension is much more gradual. As the subject ends on the third (F#), the tension does not entirely fall back to the level of the beginning.

 

I/5.2.2 The statements of the subject

There are all together 12 subject statements in this fugue:

1.

bars

1/2

= B

7.

bars

11/12

= S

2.

bars

2/3

= T

8.

bars

12/13

= A

3.

bars

4/5

= A

9.

bars

13/14

= S

4.

bars

5/6

= S

10.

bars

14/15

= T

5.

bars

7/8

= B

11.

bars

15/16

= B

6.

bars

8/9

= S

12.

bars

24/25

= B+S

 

(ex. 48)

 

This subject suffers none of the modifications otherwise encountered in Bach's fugues: it is never inverted, augmented or diminished, and its pitch and rhythm patterns remain untouched.

The only exception to all that has just been said occurs in the final statement (see bass, bars 24/25) which some scholars do not consider equal to the other statements. This entry appears extended in both directions. The bustling thirty-second-note group from D (see bar 24, beat 4) is preceded by three similar groups which gradually ascend in fourths towards the tonic level (see the groups from B, E, A). Symmetrical to these anticipating figures there are sequences in bar 26 which follow the second half of the subject: the original notes of this half, G F# E D (beginning here with an octave displacement) recur in a first transposition a fifth down (C B A G), while a second sequence is modified to accommodate the cadential-bass steps (F# E D A).

There are no real strettos in this fugue. The final entry, however, is partially set in parallels – and as the parallel begins one beat (i.e. one whole figure) later, the deceptive impression of a stretto may arise for a moment. To complete this unusual entry, in its second half and throughout its sequences the three upper voices move in rhythmic consensus but in contrary motion (see right-hand chords in bars 25/26). The strong homophonic element in this final, extended subject statement enhances the special place it occupies within the design of the fugue.

 

I/5.1.3 The counter-subjects

The usage of counter-subjects is somewhat unusual in the D major fugue; it reaffirms the fact that the French overture, an essentially homophonic genre, is one of the spiritual parents of this composition.

CS1

That musical entity which appears in the regular place of the first counter-subject (i.e. which sounds in continuation of the first subject statement and against the second entry) consists of the notes G-F#-E-D-E-A (see B: bars 2/3). When checking the three basic requirements of a counter-subject – that it be easily recognizable, that it be independent and that it be taken up again later in the fugue – we find that all are met. Then why do we hesitate to call it a counter-subject? One reason is that it sounds very much like a cadential-bass pattern. Another, more important reason is that it does not wander from voice to voice as a polyphonic idea should, but remains essentially at the bottom of the texture, thus reinforcing the impression of a cadential bass.
In its longer notes (F# D E A), this cadential-bass pattern represents the chords vi-IV-V-I. Though there are, throughout the fugue, many variations of detail, this basic harmonic progression remains unchanged.

CS2

The third subject statement is the place where one expects the next contrapuntal idea to enter. Indeed, what emerges in the tenor in bars 4/5 is again recognizable and independent from the voices around it; furthermore, it recurs frequently. However, the rhythmic shape and pitch pattern of this note group D-C#-D are that of a typical closing-formula.

CS3

Similar conditions prevail with regard to the third counter-subject: it is introduced in due place (see tenor bars 5/6, C#-B-A), fulfills theoretically all the conditions for a fugal counter-subject, but lacks melodic character and conviction. Instead, this figure again sounds like an integrated inner part of a cadential formula.


This having been said, it is time to prove that, "according to the rules", this composition is indeed a fugue with three counter-subjects. The following diagram shows how the statements of the subject are accompanied. (* = Counter-subject appears varied: second note tied over, no resolution)

 

entry no.

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

bars

2/3

4/5

5/6

7/8

8/9

11/12

12/13

13/14

14/15

15/16

CS1 in

B

B

B

T

B

B

B

B

B

CS2 in

T

A

A

S

A*

S*

CS3 in

T

T

A

A+T*

Dynamic shaping in the contrapuntal figures allows for little independence.

-

The cadential-bass pattern of CS1 should logically approach the note which represents the subdominant as its climax – a climax which thus coincides with that of the subject.

-

Equally, CS3 with its quarter-note/half-note/quarter-note rhythm will accent the half-note – which falls again on the same beat as the other climaxes.

-

Only the syncopated CS2 would sound in diminuendo – that is it would if it were left alone; but then it is hardly ever in a position to do as it should, since its first note more often than not is identical with that of the subject beginning (see bars 4, 5, 8, 13). The dynamic rendition of these four parts thus gives a distinctly homophonic result.

Sketch of phrase structure and dynamic design (ex. 49):

 

 

I/5.2.4 The episodes

The subject statements in the D major fugue are interspersed five times with episodes, the last of which is of substantial length. They are:

E1

bars 3/4

E3

bars 9-11

E5

bars 16-23

E2

bars 6/7

E4

bar 13 (beat 1)

 

Among the three motives which make up the episodes, there is one which uses the thirty-second-note figure from the subject beginning. This figure appears in four of the five episodes. In addition, E5b (bars 17-23) is dominated by the dotted rhythm of the second half of the subject. It can therefore be stated that most of the episodes in this fugue are closely related to its subject.

The first episode motive (M1) is introduced in E1. If one were to leave aside, for a moment, the ornate surface pattern and reduce the given lines to a simpler structure, M1 would emerge as being built on a descending step of two syncopated half-notes which appear in parallel sixths (see B: A-G, T: F#-E). As such, M1 merges with the varied version of CS2 as it is found e.g. in bars 13 and 14.

A similar underlying framework can be detected in E2 (see S: bars 6/7), and, in variation, in two cadences later in the piece (see S: bar 20, S+T: bar 22; the second syncopation gives way to a resolution on the ending downbeat here). In whichever version M1 occurs, the tension will always show a gradual decrease.

The second episode motive (M2), introduced in bar 6, derives from the subject's thirty-second-note figure. Despite its obvious relationship to the subject, it may well have a different dynamic outline, with the thirty-second-note figure relaxing instead of building up towards a climax. There are three reasons for this view:

-

Firstly, M2 ends, in bars 6/7, with a perfect fourth – an interval of no particular tension and certainly much less dramatic than the subject's sixth;

-

secondly, all further statements of M2 (see E3, E4, E5) begin on the downbeat of the bar;

-

thirdly, the structure of the fugue might no longer be intelligible for listeners if all statements of M2 sounded like subject entries.

 
In other words, while in the subject this figure prepares the climax and represents therefore a strong tension-increase, within the episodes it stands on its own and could well have its emphasis at the beginning and diminish through the running notes.

The third episode motive (M3) is related to both the subject and the cadential-bass figure (CS1) in that it picks up their dotted rhythm. M3 appears simultaneously in three voices: A+T present a simple version while the soprano, beginning one beat earlier, replaces the expected dotted eighth-note with a written-out "inverted mordent". (Thus, in an imagined simplified version, this motive would sound like parallel sixth chords; see bars 9/10, 17-19.) As M3 is composed of descending sequences, the dynamic gesture is that of a diminuendo.

E4 and E5b build on combinations of these three motives while E5a (bars 16-17d), confirming the E minor key reached in the preceding subject statements, is a mere cadential close. Between the episodes there exists only one immediate relationship: segments of E5b recall E3 (compare bars 17-19 and 21 with bars 9-11).

These are the roles the episodes play in the development of the fugue:

E1

with its underlying lines of parallel syncopations links two pairs of subject entries (bars 1/2 and 5/6) within the same section.

E2

because of its very similar upper part gives the same impression, although in terms of structure it clearly opens the second section. By creating this relaxing effect in front of what should be a new impulse, Bach seems to thread the first two sections closely together, so that the feeling of a structural ending only arises when a new tonal sphere is reached, i.e. with the downbeat of bar 9 which establishes B minor).

E3

sounds self-contained; it seems intended as a buffer between two larger portions of the piece.

E4

again serves as a link; it is only one beat long and may easily pass unnoticed if the performer forgets to distinguish it in tone color from the surrounding subject entries.

E5a

as has already been mentioned, is a cadential close and thus brings a feeling of relaxation.

E5b

The extensive second segment of the last episode is again very much self-contained. After descending sequences (bars 17-20) it regains tension in a dense imitative interplay of the thirty-second-note figure (bar 20). The following cadential close (see bar 21d) cannot dissipate all the excitement that had been built up; it therefore fails to serve as a convincing announcement of the forthcoming end of the piece. Instead, reinforcement is needed which Bach creates by repeating, after another short quotation of M3, the cadence in a more traditional pattern (see bars 21-23).

 

 

I/5.2.5 Character, tempo, articulation, ornament realization

The character of this fugue is certainly determined much more by the particular mood of the French overture upon which it is based than by the conventions which it shares with other polyphonic compositions. It might be described as "stately", lively but not light. As articulation in French overtures was an intricate affair, it has to be discussed separately for each of the rhythmic patterns.

-

The thirty-second-note groups are obviously legato. They are virtuoso figures which should by no means sound melodious – this already gives a first indication for a minimum tempo.

-

The dotted-note groups reflect the stately character of this piece best if played in a rather heavy non legato.

-

The longer note values in the subject's companions require three slightly different types of articulations:

*

neutral non legato in the cadential figure of CS1

*

a more melodious non legato in CS3

*

true legato in the do-si-do formula of CS2

-

Finally, the sixteenth-notes in the upper part of M3 could all be played legato. However, if one wished to emphasize the underlying dotted-note patterns, it would make sense if one carefully articulated the structural details. The first three sixteenth-notes in each group, i.e. those which can be read as a written-out "inverted mordent", are then played legato, while the fourth sixteenth-note sounds as non legato as the accompanying voices.


As the prevalent features in this fugue and the preceding prelude are so strikingly different, the risk of monotony does not arise and the tempo proportion may be simple; in other words, the pulse remains steady throughout both pieces.

 

one half bar (or two quarter-notes)

corresponds with

one quarter-note

in the prelude

in the fugue


(Approximate metronome settings: prelude beat = 120, fugue beat = 60.)

The fugue contains three ornaments which, according to their print size in the Urtext edition, originate from Bach's own hand: they are the cadential ornaments in bars 20 and 22 and the grace-note in bar 10.

-

The ornament in bar 20 is written as a mordent and should consist of four notes (D-C#-D-C#). A realistic speed for this mordent is probably to play the first three notes as a triplet of sixty-fourth-notes against the first two thirty-second-notes in the left hand. (Anything slower, like a motion in thirty-second-notes, would create an awkward D-C# against C#-D.)

-

The compound trill in bar 22 needs more notes (and thus much more practice). The symbol indicates a "turn + mordent" figure, which requires eight notes (D-C#-B-C#-D-C#-D-C#). These have to be fitted into less than a dotted eighth-note as the anticipation should come after a short stop. A brilliant sixty-fourth-note execution, with the final C# on or before the dot, is the only solution.

-

The grace-note in bar 10 represents an appoggiatura; it may, however, only be held for a sixteenth-note in order to avoid the D-C# parallel with the bass. Again, the decision to play it is one that must be maintained through the whole piece.


Other ornaments stem from copies by Bach's pupils; they may or may not go back to the master's suggestions but are certainly worth being considered.

-

The subject could be played with ornaments on two of its dotted notes. The first is an inverted mordent (to be played with a whole tone neighbor note in all statements apart from those in bars 8 and 15). The second is a mordent which could comprise three or, better still in the context of an overture style, five notes. Both ornaments have to be treated with consistency: they are either omitted completely or included in each subject statement.

-

The mordent in M1 (see T: bar 3) seems inconsequential but sounds pleasant.

-

The inverted mordent in bar 15 may serve to enhance the fact that this subject statement, unlike all the others, ends unresolved. No conclusions for other entries need to be drawn.

-

The two cadential ornaments in bars 16 and 26 are very typical. Both begin with the main note, ascend twice to the upper neighbor note and end in a suffix. Their rhythmic realization depends on a decision which, unique to this particular fugue, has great impact on the performance in general:

*

Performers who place the emphasis on the French-overture character of the piece will render these ornaments in the appropriate style, i.e. as fast as possible, concluding it in the time span of a dotted eighth-note or less and leaving ample room for a point d'arrêt stop.

*

Performers who wish to stress the fugue will interpret the compound-ornament symbol as an indication for a note-filling trill; they will therefore sustain the initial main note for a sixteenth-note which is followed by three regular thirty-second-note-pairs.


This brings the focus to a rhythmic feature which should be mentioned in this context. French overtures are known to contain "over-dotted" rhythms. This means that some of the notes written with single dots were traditionally played as if they were double-dotted.

Again: whether one wishes to carry the imitation of the genre piece as far as this and play this composition in the style of a true French overture, or whether one decides to regard it as "after all, a Bach fugue", depends on personal taste. In the first case, however, it is vital to know that the over-dotting does not apply equally to all dotted notes but only to those which

-

are complemented by a single note

-

fall on one of the strong beats in a bar

-

are not accompanied by lines that indicate normal dotting.


To give some examples: over-dotted eighth-notes are possible in bar 1 on beat 3, in bar 2 on beats 1 and 3; in bar 4 on beat 3, and in bar 5 on beats 1 and 3. In the episodes bars 3/4 and bars 6/7, however, the strong-beat notes are each complemented by three faster notes which must sound in their written value. In bars 9/10, the spelled-out ornamented version of the upper part indicates that the parallel voices, too, are to be played as written. As a result, the following pattern is possible:

-

Subject and CS1 can be double-dotted in their middle (beat 3)

-

the subject's ending note can be double-dotted when followed by another subject statement (bars 2, 5, 12) or a sequence (bars 25/26), but must be simply dotted when followed by a group of notes (bars 8, 14)

-

all episodes in this fugue seem not to allow for double-dotting, except perhaps for the notes in the cadential formulas (beat 3 in bars 20 and 22).


 

I/5.2.6 The design of the fugue

There are a few indicators of structural design in the surface features. The first subject statement to appear, after the initial buildup of the ensemble, in reduced number of voices is that in bar 11. The two-part setting here constitutes quite a dramatic reduction from the full ensemble of bars 5 and 7/8). Furthermore, as mentioned above, there is only one among the episodes which manifestly concludes a section: the episode in bars 15/16. From these findings alone we can thus deduce that there are two partitions in this fugue: one in bar 11 (after beat one) and another in bar 17 (after the downbeat).

However, the assumed first section of the fugue with its six entries contains one subject statement more than it "should". This section must, therefore, consist "under the surface" of two sections . The same holds true for the second section: here it is not so much the number of entries but the fact that the soprano sounds both at the beginning (bars 11/12) and in the middle (bars 13/14) which points to a design with sub-grouping.

The third section also is, without doubt, quite unusual in a fugue. It consists mainly of an extensive episode which is twice interrupted by a cadential formula reconfirming the return to the home key. Its last portion finally leads into a subject statement which itself sounds quite different from what one might expect: luxuriantly extended at both ends, the expected contrapuntal texture is abandoned for parallel motion (first half) and homophonic chords (second half).

These results are supported by the harmonic development in the composition. After five entries in D major, the sixth entry is in the subdominant. This begins a modulation which passes through the relative key B minor (bar 9) and returns to the subdominant G major (bar 11). The point at which this new key is established coincides with the subject statement in reduced ensemble which, as was mentioned, indicates the beginning of a second section. On closer inspection two more details are discovered:

-

Although the fifth entry (bars 7/8) sounds in full four-part texture, it is accompanied by only one of the contrapuntal figures – the other two are substituted by material which reminds one much more of the episodes.

-

This statement is also the first one in the fugue to end, not in a resolved root-position chord, but instead in an inverted seventh chord.

 
This entry is thus weakened both with regard to its surroundings and in its harmonic stability. The concluding D7 chord links it to the target key, G major, of the subsequent modulation. In other words, Bach created two subtly distinct structural levels. On the obvious level, the first part of the fugue is ten bars long; on a sub-level, this part consists of two only slightly separated sections. Among them, the first contains the buildup of the ensemble in an ascending order of voices and the successive introduction of all three contrapuntal figures, while being harmonically static. The second begins with the subject accompanied only by CS1 and two neutral lines in homophonic pattern; it is also harmonically weakened by its resolution onto a chord which is not only inverted but comes with an additional seventh and thus tends towards a resolution onto the key of G. The second subject statement of this second section brings both the expected new key and the four-part ensemble with all three contrapuntal figures. This latter fact relates it to the fourth entry (the last of the first section).

The second part of the fugue shows a similar sub-surface split into two sections. These are strung together even more closely and are hardly distinguishable when heard for the first time. Indicators appear again in the harmonic development:

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The subject statement in bar 11 sounds in the new key G major and in two-part texture. It is followed by an entry in three-part ensemble which modulates into the relative minor key (see bar 13: B minor). This fact relates it directly to the sixth entry which brought forward the same modulation (compare subject bars 8/9 with subject bars 12/13).

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The ensuing entry returns to D major; in addition, its resolution chord contains the seventh (C natural) which relates this statement to the fifth entry in the fugue – the first statement in the second section. Further, the three-part texture is retained and not yet complemented with the missing fourth voice. The next entry sounds in full ensemble and in the expected G major; but again, its resolution chord includes a seventh (this time the major seventh). The third entry in this group reaches the relative of the subdominant: E minor, the key of the explicit cadence at the end of this part.


Looking at the strange balance attempted in this fugue between these sections and the final episode E5b, it is interesting to observe that this episode of seven bars (see bars 17-23) is longer than any of the preceding sections; it is even longer than the entire six-bar long second part. For a sketch showing the design of the fugue in D major, see ex. 50.

 

 

I/5.2.7 The development of tension

Within the first part, the four subject statements of the first section bring forth an increase in texture. The increase in loudness, however, is comparably small because already the first statement should have fully declared the stately character of the piece. From the fourth entry to the sixth, i.e. throughout sections I and II, the tension remains almost unchanged. The two similar episodes – one within the first section, the other between the two sections – bring slight but inconsequential relaxations. It is only the third episode, at the end of the first part, which succeeds in conveying a more noticeable tension-decrease.

Within the second part, the buildup is again caused by the growing number of voices. While among the two statements in three-part texture (alto bars 12/13 and soprano bars 13/14) the latter sounds more outgoing because of its exposed pitch position, the ensuing tenor statement in four-part texture and the last entry in the bass, accompanied by a parallel of CS3 in the two middle voices, share in the climax. As the end of this statement does not bring about the expected harmonic resolution but keeps the middle voices in suspension, the tension is allowed to subside only very gradually in the subsequent cadential bar.

The long episode which opens the third part of the piece begins with the material from the tension-releasing third episode and thus creates a sense of continued relaxation until the downbeat of bar 20. Immediately following this, however, the fourfold imitative interplay of M2 propels the tension so high that even the cadential pattern with its typical closing-formula mordent cannot dissipate it fast enough. Another bar with M3 and the varied repetition of the cadential bar – this time without the stormy thirty-second-note stretto – is needed to achieve relaxation. The following bar with its descending tendency continues this direction. Thus it is that the final, unusually extended subject statement with its powerful parallel motion commences from a relatively soft level, only to unfold its tremendous buildup all the more forcefully.

The relationship between the three parts is obvious from all that has been said above: the first two parts are similarly built, with rises both times from about mf to a good f. The third part seems to delay the outbreak, and when it finally allows its only subject statement to make its declaration, this by far outranks that of all the previous entries.