from Siglind Bruhn
J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier
In-depth Analysis and Interpretation
II/16.1.1 The prelude type
As already the most cursory glance over the composition reveals, this prelude deals with rhythmic patterns. Upon closer inspection we find that the entire composition is based on one main rhythmic figure (ex. 39).
This rhythmic figure appears in numerous melodic guises. Amongst them, a small number of recurring motives can be isolated. They share an interesting feature: the continuity of dotted rhythm, guaranteed in all cases with the aid of little inserts in a complementary voice.
II/16.1.2 The overall design of the prelude
The very first harmonic progression closes on the downbeat of bar 2 where the first cadence in the home key materializes. This cadential close in G minor coincides with the end of the initial motive and therefore does not represent a structural caesura.
The modulation triggered shortly after this initial cadence leads to the subdominant key of C minor, reached with a cadential formula on the downbeat of bar 5. This closure should be regarded as structurally relevant, not the least because of the recurrence of the initial motive (see the correspondence of bars 5/6 with bars 1/2).
The prelude comprises six sections which can be grouped into two larger parts:
|I||bars 1-5d||tonic to subdominant|
|II||bars 5-9d||subdominant to dominant|
|IV||bars 11-132||tonic to subdominant|
|V||bars 13-20d||subdominant back to tonic|
|VI||bars 20/21||confirmation of tonic|
II/16.1.3 Practical considerations for performers
The prelude in G minor is one of only three works - among the forty eight preludes and forty-eight fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier - that carries an initial tempo indication. (The other two are the Fugue in B minor, vol. I no. 24, marked Largo, and the Prelude in B minor, vol. II no. 24, marked Allegro.) There must be a good reason for Largo to be marked here. It could be Bach's warning against treating the continuous dotted in too lively a manner.
The tempo is thus measured in slow quarter-notes, and the mood, correspondingly, can be described as stately, grave, solemn. The appropriate articulation is an overall legato; this applies to all voices, whether they be melodically relevant or mere accompaniment (like the ascending eighth-notes in bar 2). The usual exceptions in cadential bass patterns occur here only in bars 8/9 and 19/20. In all other cases they seem conscientiously avoided by ties which make detached playing impossible (see bars 4/5, 10/11, 12/13).
A number of ornaments are to be considered in this prelude. Two melodic mordents appear already within the first bar. Both are approached stepwise, begin therefore on the main note and encompass only a simple three note shake. These two ornaments recur in the sequence (see bar 2.) Beyond that, they are not specifically indicated but should, as thematically integrated embellishments, be transferred to all further entries of the motive (i.e. to bars 5, 6 and 9). In contrast to this thematic ornament, the remaining decorations appear almost arbitrary - neither melodically induced nor marking cadential formulas. Their execution poses no problem: the inverted mordent in bar 11 appears in almost immediate succession to an Eb so that doubt about the pitch of the lower neighbor note does not arise; the mordent in bar 15 is approached by the interval of a second and thus contains only E-F-E, while that in bar 8 is a four note ornament launched from the upper neighboring note. All these ornaments commence metrically on the beat. (The only pre beat ornament in this composition is written out; see the inverted mordent figure Eb-D-Eb in the middle of the final bar. Containing the only thirty-second-notes in the entire piece, this spelled out ornament is clearly distinguished from its surroundings.)
II/16.1.4 What is happening in this prelude
As the rhythmic pattern in this prelude is so uniform, all attention is captured by the melodic features and the texture. Two different textural levels can be distinguished. One is the complementary interplay between a melodic voice and a short insert in an adjacent voice; these quasi-polyphonic features will be dealt with when the motives of the piece are discussed. The other level of texture is realized by the pedal notes which, only occasionally hidden behind rhythmic patterns, pervade the entire piece. Together with the six cadences, these pedal notes constitute the backbone of the composition. It is interesting to discover that the only bars which are not rooted in pedal notes disclose another feature equally suited to create large-scale contexts: a gradually descending peak note line in the uppermost voice which links the root of the subdominant chord (C) to that of the tonic (G). The following example shows a version of the bass line which is analytically simplified to facilitate structural understanding, the section ending cadences, and the peak note line (ex. 40):
The thematic material of this prelude is determined by three main motives. As was already mentioned, each of these motives consists of two or even three voices which combine in a rhythmically complementary way.
commences after the initial downbeat in the bass and spans exactly
one bar. It consists of a "head", the complement, the climax and the "tail".
(Several of these segments recur separately and are thus named.) The "head"
M1a has as its goal Eb - the sixth degree
of the scale which, in the minor mode, represents high tension. The complement
M1b ends with a descending tritone one of the high tension intervals that
in Bach's time often characterized highly emotional pieces in slow tempo.
The climax is marked by the largest interval jump, C-A, which is particularly
conspicuous since it emerges from a descending line (see bar 1, second
half: from Eb to A). The "tail" M1c
brings the expected relaxation with a gentle stepwise figure that, were
it not for the dotted rhythm, could be read as a written-out turn. The
texture of this motive can be described as two part polyphony with an
accompanying voice in the lowest part.
is introduced in bars 3 4d. It is related to M1 in two ways: its
final figure (see bars 3/4: D-A-C-B) is a transposition of M1a and its
second complement (see bar 3, "alto": G-F#-E-F#)
of M1c, both in major mode now. Distinct is the fact that the first four
notes of M2 are split (between "soprano" and "tenor", if these terms are
applicable here; see bar 31/2 : G-A/C-Bb).
More surprising - and easily overlooked upon first reading - is the rhythm
of this first complement which replaces, for the first time in the piece,
the thirty-second-note upbeat by a sixteenth-note. The two complements
in different voices give the impression that this motive is set in three-part
polyphonic texture, with one accompanying voice in the lowest part.
first appears in bars 132-142. In the leading voice, two four note figures appear combined to a single broken chord pattern which climaxes on the long D. This impetus is also apparent in the two complements which, again for the first time in the piece, present a four note figure not in a curved or zig zag shape but in a straight ascent (see bars 13/14 tenor: F#-G-A-Bb and bass: Bb-C-D-Eb). Due to these energetic complements, this motive does not end in complete relaxation.
M3 recurs immediately in the sequence of bars 14-15d. The sequence appears as an intensified version of its model for several reasons. Apart from being set two notes higher, it is also contracted at the end in such a way that its two complements form parallels (see bars 14/15, alto + bass). Furthermore, what appeared in bar 132-3 as an abandoned attempt of a free parallel to the main part of the motive is now fully developed and allocated to the fourth voice (see bars 14-15d, tenor), so that this M3 sequence represents the first motivic figure in the prelude to sound in four part texture.
A final small figure deserves a mention. Set in the same rhythmic pattern as all the others, it has, due to its pitch pattern, distinctly relaxing quality. It appears first as an additional complement to M3 (see bars 13/14: A-Bb-F#-G), is omitted in the more impetuous sequence but recurs during the peak note descent (see bars 16 soprano, 17 soprano and alto) and marks the end of the composition (see bar 21, alto).
The structure as built by the motives and their recurrences can thus be described as follows:
||Section I is thematically active. It presents M1 and M2,
both with an immediate recurrence.
||Section II recalls, in its first half, M1 with its imitation.
Its second half quotes only segments of motives.
||Section III, half as long as the previous ones, presents itself as a contracted
version of section I: bar 9 is a variation of bar 2, and bar 10 a faithful
transposition of bar 4. Due to the fact that its two bars are taken up fully
by thematic material, it appears slightly more intense than section II.
||Section IV is the least intense so far. Again only two bars long, it does
not quote any of the two previously introduced motives in their entirety,
but contains, like the second half of section II, only segments.
||Section V appears as a new beginning. A new motive, which is full of vigor,
is presented. The very long section (with its seven bars almost twice as
long as section I and II) is further dominated by the peak note line described
earlier. Its dynamics thus span from the very energetic crescendi at the
beginning (bar 13 and, even more, bar 14) through the gradual diminuendo
of bars 16-19 to a complete relaxation on the first beat of bar 20.
||Section VI therefore acts only as a coda. Presenting no material whatsoever apart from the little resolving figure at the very end, it also displays what could be called a de-intensified rhythm: the thirty-second-note upbeat is substituted by a sixteenth-note (see bar 201-4 and bar 211) through five beats.|
WTC II/16 in G minor - Fugue
II/16.2.1 The subject
Commencing on the second beat of a three four bar, the subject of the G minor fugue spans four bars. It concludes after an appoggiatura (C) and an ornamented resolution (Bb) on the first sixteenth-note of the second beat in bar 4. Both the pitch of the first note (D, the fifth degree of the G minor scale) and the unusual rhythmic features of the beginning (a weak-beat quarter-note followed by a rest) already create a feeling of heightened tension on the very first note of the fugue and thus counteract our usual notion of a weak beat beginning as upbeat.
After this unique opening, the phrase unfolds in the most regular of patterns. The next three downbeats are each prepared by a eighth-note note anacrusis, in sequencing intervals of ascending fourths (Bb-Eb, A-D, G-C). While the second of these upbeats opens a subphrase which is the exact transposition of the preceding subphrase, the third triggers one of twice the length - the extension being made palpable by a seven fold note repetition. Thus one can observe that, disregarding for a moment the initial D, the subject is built as a classical phrase group in a short short long pattern of regular and motivically related building blocks.
The rhythmic pattern within the subject is dominated by eighth-notes and quarter-notes. While the counter-subjects and all motives add sixteenth-notes and occasional dotted notes, an overall impression of rhythmic simplicity remains. The pitch pattern is characterized by jumps and note repetitions in the longer note values, and by scalar passages as well as frequent ornamental figures in the sixteenth-notes. (See e.g. the inverted-mordent figures on the third beat of bars 5, 6, 7 and the chain of mordents in bar 8.)
The subject's harmonic structure is simple. Only the first note comes regularly with a swift harmonic change; this is perhaps not too surprising after all that has already been observed about the beginning of this subject (ex. 41):
The dynamic outline, too, is simple. Launched from the fifth degree, i.e. from raised tension, the climax falls on bar 2d which represents both the peak of the descending sequences and the subdominant harmony. The tension then decreases gradually through the smaller climaxes of the following subphrases (bars 3d and 4d) and finds a perfect release onto the tonic's third (bar 5, beat 2).
II/16.2.2 The statements of the subject
The G minor fugue contains the following seventeen subject statements.
|bars 20-24||T||13.||bars 59-63||B|
|bars 28-32||A||14.||bars 59-63||T|
|bars 32-36||S||15.||bars 67-69-73(75)||T|
|bars 36-40||B||16.||bars 69-73(75)||S|
Throughout these seventeen entries, the subject experiences a number of modifications in a variety of surroundings. Although neither inversion nor any true stretto appear, a much more outstanding feature, the subject parallel, is used repeatedly (see bars 45-49, 51-56, 59-63 and, depending on interpretation, also bars 69-73).
Modifications in the shape of the subject include regular features like the adjustment of the initial interval in the answer (see bars 5, 13, 36). A more noticeable variation of the beginning is given in the final entry which commences with a note repetition (see bar 79); this subject entry is also the only one to vary the upbeats to the two short subphrases (see bars 80/81 and 81/82).
The subject's ending comes in several guises, including an unornamented version of the final resolution (see bars 32 and 49: A), a tie in the note repetitions followed by a diversion of the final note (see bar 36), an extension and partial variation of the note repetition followed by a newly ornamented resolution (see bars 55/56: A), and a new ornamentation of the last downbeat (see bar 63: T). Besides the free variations of the ending in the doubled subject entries (see bars 55/56: S and bar 63: B), the most drastic modifications occur in bars 67-75. The soprano statement, after beginning regularly in bars 69-72, features a delayed resolution which, enveloped in the metric pattern of a hemiola, finds its satisfactory conclusion only at the end of a cadential formula on the downbeat of bar 75. The tenor statement which immediately precedes it can either be read as shortened (i.e. without the entire final subphrase, in which case it would break off on the second beat of bar 69), or, more likely, as extended in its middle by two extra sequences (see bars 67/68 sequenced in 68/69, 69/70, 70/71) and complemented by a free and again very much extended version of the final subphrase.
II/16.2.3 The counter-subjects
Bach invents only one true counter-subject for this fugue. Introduced in the bars 5m-9m in the tenor, it displays a phrase structure which is strikingly similar to that of the "subject without its initial note": a one-bar subphrase is followed by two descending sequences of which the second is extended to two-bar length. The example below attempts to show this similarity (ex. 43):
The almost parallel design of subject and counter-subject permits little independence in the dynamic layout. All one can do to maintain a certain degree of distinction is to place the climax in each of the counter-subject's subphrases on the inverted mordents, i.e. on beat 3 of bars 5, 6 and 7. The tie in bars 7/8 supports this solution which, were it not for the sake of more polyphonic clarity, would appear somewhat unusual from a metric point of view.
II/16.2.4 The episodes
The fugue contains eight subject-freepassages.
|bars 17-20||E5||bars 56-59|
|bars 24-28||E6||bars 63-67|
|bars 40-45||E7||bars 75-79|
|E4||bars 49-51||E8||bars 83/84|
The subject-freepassages contain three explicit cadential formulas, ending on the subdominant (E3, bars 44/45), the dominant (imperfect cadence: E6, bars 66/67) and the tonic (E8, bars 83/84) respectively. Among them, the very short final episode consists entirely of this cadential close; were it not for the suspension and weak beat resolution in the tenor, we would recognize a textbook formula. In E3, the close in C minor displays a similar suspension followed by a resolution into the third which overlaps with the ensuing subject entry (see alto bar 45). In E6, the imperfect cadential close of the home key ends without suspension.
This sixth episode is, however, related to E8 in another way and distinguished from the remaining subject-freepassages in the fugue. Instead of embarking, after a clearly discernible ending of the preceding subject entries, on the typical episode motive of this fugue (see below), it unfolds almost imperceptibly as an extension of the preceding S/CS parallel. The varied end of the subject statement in the tenor (see bar 63), which substitutes the note repetition + inverted mordent figure by a four note mordent, is sequenced in such a way as to form an imitation of the three fold mordent figure characterizing the counter-subject's fourth bar (see alto bar 62). At the same time, the bass imitates the preceding soprano descent. The following two bars mix further imitation of the three fold mordent (see S + A: bar 64; T: bar 65) with a sequence, in the bass, of the varied subject ending (compare B bars 62/63 with bars 64/65).
In all other episodes, the characteristic opening motive of the counter-subject plays a major role; it will be referred to as Mcs. The three note ascent followed by the inverted mordent figure (compare tenor bars 5 or 6) is complemented in various ways. The other parts active in each episode present various figures which are either sequenced or imitated but often not taken up again at any other instance in the fugue.
||In E1, Mcs dominates the bass and is particularly audible because of the
resting tenor. Of the four quotations of the motive, the first is most extended
(it ends on bar 18 beat 2 with a phrasing after Eb);
the second ends on the downbeat of bar 19 (phrasing after Bb),
and the third and fourth, both of which break off after the inverted mordent
figure, appear in their stepwise descent like a preparation for the upcoming
entry of the counter-subject. (Dynamic climaxes fall on bar 17 beat 3, bar
18 beat 3, bar 19 beat 2, bar 20 beat 1.) The soprano figure with the broken
triad (see bars 17/18) is imitated in the alto (bars 18/19). So is the "trill"
figure which follows.
||In E2, Mcs appears in an imitative pattern of tenor and soprano, while
the alto is resting. The beat 3 inverted mordent is extended to include,
after a suspension, a second inverted mordent. (Dynamic climaxes fall on
third beats in T: bar 24, S: bar 25, T: bar 26, S: bar 27. The parallel
figure in S: bars 24/25, T bars 25/26 etc. are of secondary importance.)
The six-eighth-note figure in the bass is sequenced three times with considerable
variation. What remains is the dynamic gesture of a three-eighth-note upbeat
and a slightly accented downbeat.
||In E3, Mcs is presented again with a tie prolongation and a second inverted
mordent (see bass: bars 40/41 with an additional sixteenth-note repeating
the tied note; bars 41/42 with an additional sixteenth-note in the style
of an escape note) before it gives way to a free development and a cadential
close. Soprano and alto invent short figures which are sequenced twice in
ascending direction before they join the free development and cadence.
||In the relatively short E4, Mcs appears in the tenor; the tie is retained
but the ending of the second inverted mordent is deflected. The sequence
(bars 50/51) is very free, recognizable mainly because of its metric shape.
The bass accompanies with a similarly free sequence, and the alto adds a
three note figure (also sequenced).
||E5 is the first episode to quote Mcs in the original shape of the counter-subject
(see bass: bars 56/57, 57/58, 58/59). It is interesting to observe that
the tied note followed by a second inverted mordent figure has not been
dropped completely but appears in the soprano here. This episode strikes
the listener by its high content of chromaticism in the voices that accompany
Mcs (see soprano: C-B-Bb-A-Ab-G,
alto: F-E-Eb-D, tenor: D-Db-C-Cb-Bb).
||E7 surprises us with a very high density of interwoven Mcs quotes. This
can be made clear quite effectively by designating the climaxes. These fall
as follows: bar 75 beat 2 (B), beat 3 (S), bar 76 beat 1 (T), beat 2 (A),
beat 3 (S+T), bar 77 beat 2 (S+B).
An unusual feature connected to this episode deserves mentioning. The preceding soprano statement had, as was observed earlier, ended in an extended cadential formula which, in surprisingly homophonic texture, displayed the metric pattern of a hemiola (see the metric accents in bar 73 beat 1, bar 73 beat 3, bar 74 beat 2, bar 75 beat 1). A similar hemiola, again enveloped in chordal texture with simultaneous rests in all voices, concludes this episode, reaching over into the beginning of the final subject entry (see the metric accents in bar 78 beat 1, bar 78 beat 3, bar 79 beat 2, bar 80 beat 1).
The role played by each episode in the course of the dynamic development is largely determined by the direction of sequences and imitations. E1 consists of a two fold relaxation (bars 17-19d and, overlapping in the soprano, bars 19/20). E2 is conceived with sequences in ascending direction, thus creating a slight increase in tension. E3 appears as a dynamic curve. An initial increase which is straightforward due to the fact that all voices join in the ascending sequences (see bars 40-43) is followed by a decrease and a release in the first explicit cadential close. E4 links two consecutive parallel statements in increasing tendency, while E5, with its descending sequences and very obvious falling chromatic lines, creates a very gradual decrease of tension. In E6, by contrast, the tension is prolonged if not heightened throughout the partial sequences of the preceding statement and only slightly released in the approach to the imperfect cadence. After the cadential extension of the soprano statement, E7 commences more softly than any of the previous episodes but builds up even more powerfully, in immediate preparation for the ensuing final subject statement.
II/16.2.5 Character, tempo, articulation, ornament realization
The basic character of this fugue allows for two interpretations which differ only by degrees.
||Commonly it is regarded as rather lively. This is based both on
the overall simplicity of the rhythmic structure and on the pitch pattern
with its combination of skips, repeated notes and ornamental figures. The
corresponding articulation features detached playing for all eighth-notes
and quarter-notes, and legato for the sixteenth-notes.
||It is also possible to interpret the character as rather calm. Such attitude allows for greater attention to the syncopations in counter-subject and episode material, and it facilitates a distinction between cadential and melodic eighth-notes (as i.e. in B: bars 9, 24 28). In this case, all melodic notes are to be played legato, and non legato is reserved for consecutive jumps and cadential basses.|
What are, in effect, the differences in articulation in the two approaches to this fugue? Both the subject and the counter-subject would sound alike under the two approaches as all longer note values are either consecutive jumps or note repetitions (which means they would be detached in any case), or an appoggiatura (which would be inseparable from its resolution in any case; see e.g. bar 5: C-Bb, bar 9: G-F). Differences occur, however, within the secondary material occurring both as accompaniment to the subject and in the episodes. An example may illustrate this.
Take the tenor line of bars 9 16.
||In rather calm basic character, all notes are legato. Note
values are shortened only in connection with phrasing: see the interruptions
for structural reasons in bar 10 after A, in bar 11 after G in bar 14 after
A and in bar 15 after G.
||In rather lively basic character, we expect a greater number of the eighth-notes to be non legato. The tied notes in bars 14 and 15, however, end in harmonic suspensions which are inseparable from their respective resolutions. The only notes which are effectively different (detached) are bar 10: A, F; bar 11: C; bar 12/13: G F# E D F#; bar 14: G, bar 15: F.|
The tempo of this fugue is moderately fast. A measure for an appropriate pace are the sixteenth-notes. They should be swift enough to convey their ornamental character, but not so brisk as to give up their melodic quality. Transparency must be guaranteed as well as the possibility for unhurried phrasing between sixteenth-notes (as is demanded e.g. between subject ending and counter-subject beginning).
The relative tempo of the prelude to the fugue uses larger metric units for translation:
in the prelude
in the fugue
Approximate metronome settings:
prelude beats = 28 (eighth-notes = 56), fugue beats = 84.
The only ornament symbol to appear in the score is found in bar 21. The mordent is approached stepwise; it thus commences on the main note and consists of a single shake with three notes. Playing the first two of them as thirty-second-notes (so that the return to the main note falls on the bass note C) represents a perfectly acceptable and clear solution. The rendition of the ornament as a triplet (which concludes before the bass motive begins) is equally correct but risks blurring.
II/16.2.6 The design of the fugue
The structural layout of the G minor fugue is very interesting, even intriguing insofar as a certain ambiguity seems to correspond with the two possible interpretations of the basic character.
The entire composition (84 bars) falls into two almost equal halves (44 + 40 bars). While this major dividing line is beyond doubt, the distinction between sections in each half appears blurred by contrary information from within the musical text. Here are the details.
The first half contains eight subject statements in the entering order of
T A S B T A S B.
The episode which follows the last of these entries describes a self contained dynamic curve and concludes with a perfect cadence in C minor (subdominant) in bar 45. This main structural caesura falls roughly in the middle of the eighty-four-bar long fugue. Within the eight statements of the first pair, parallel entries are not once used.
The second half contains the following subject statements:
T+A A+S B+T T+S Bvar.
Two facts can be deduced very clearly from these tables. Firstly, Bach introduces a new contrapuntal technique in the second half of the fugue - the parallel statement of the subject - and uses it very consistently through four entries and four different voice combinations.
Secondly, the entering order of the leading voice in each pair, T A B S, is almost identical with the order observed twice in the first half of the fugue. (The leader in a parallel statement is traditionally the one which is placed on the scale degree identical with that of the original subject. Thus in the first pair which is harmonically in F major, the tenor begins correctly on the fifth and carries on accordingly, while the alto, doubling in thirds, does not maintain the original interval structure. ) The final entry in the bass seems the odd one out in several ways: it is the only statement in the fugue that is considerably varied, it is the only one that contains a harmonically effective modification of the pitch pattern (B natural), and it follows only after the two conspicuous homophonic formulas in hemiola pattern, thus appearing more like a coda.
Summing up what has been observed so far, the second half of the fugue presents itself as a single section comprising four parallel statements followed by one redundant entry. (From bar 59 onwards, Bach introduces a yet more intensified contrapuntal technique: parallel statements of the counter-subject in addition to the parallel statements of the subject. Some analysts take this fact as an indication for the beginning of a new section in bar 59. Others regard the imperfect cadence in bar 66/67, together with the ensuing thinner texture with only two voices, as a structural caesura. Yet it seems preferable to recognize both features as means employed to create further intensification. We can state a gradual build up of tension through this long section: commencing with the parallel subject statement, continuing in the double parallel of both subject and counter-subject, and culminating in this same double parallel which, as it is prolonged by a two-bar anticipation of the accompanying parallel voices. The reduced texture in bars 67/68 thus appears as a short repose before the final triumphant outbreak: the double parallel in the home key. The fact that the anticipated subject statement in the tenor appears already in the "expected" key (compare tenor bars 67/68 with soprano bars 69/70) creates an effect as if stretto and double parallel were combined.)
The effect of these slightly contradictory factors is one of ambiguity. The absence of cadential formulas at the end of E2, and the smooth transition of both episodes into the subsequent statements adds to the impression that Bach consciously intended the first two sections to appear more linked than separated.
The first half with its eight entries is not quite as easy to tackle as one might expect, as it contains somewhat contradictory clues.
||On the one hand, the entering order suggests two pairs of T A S B rounds;
this solution might be regarded as further supported by the very similar
order of the four group leaders in the second half of the fugue, as analyzed
||On the other hand, the texture suggests a different structure. As the
tenor entry in bars 20-24 retains, throughout the subject's first and second
subphrases, the full four-part ensemble which had been established in the
preceding bass entry. The following two subject statements in alto and soprano,
however, appear in reduced number of voices as the bass is resting in bars
28-36. It therefore seems unlikely, from the point of view of texture, that
the tenor entry should mark the beginning of a new section.
||The tonality in the eight subject entries of the fugue's first half does not give any indication with regard to the section allocation of entries, as only the seventh and eighth entries (S and B) sound in major mode. The first episode speaks in support of the solution which ties the tenor entry into the first section: it ends in the bass with a sequence of the shortened Mcs which acts as a compelling preparation for the following entry of the counter-subject (see bass bars 19/20).|
What Bach thus creates is a double section in which the dividing line can be determined by careful analysis alone but does not constitute, particularly for the listener, a structural caesura. For a sketch showing the design of the fugue in G minor see ex. 44.
II/16.2.7 The overall dynamic outline of the fugue
The three sections of the fugue represent three dynamic increases of very different gesture and intensity.
||In the first section, the growth of the ensemble comes with an increase
in tension which is straightforward since the four voices enter without
any interrupting episode. The redundant tenor entry, however, does not continue
this build-up. Having picked up the tension of the preceding bass entry
after the interpolated episode, it loses momentum halfway through the statement
as the alto drops out and leaves a thinner three part ensemble behind.
||The second section begins, with regard to both texture (3-part; the alto
rejoins but the bass drops out) and tonality (still in minor mode) where
the first section had ended - i.e. softer than the end of the previous entry
but slightly more assertive than the initial entry of the first section.
While the three statements of this section also follow each other uninterrupted
by episodes, the expected urgency is much attenuated. The soprano entry
remains in three-part texture and thus holds back the increase in tension.
Moreover, the harmonization which brings about, in the course of this entry,
a modulation to Bb major, renders the subject's character considerably more
gentle than the original version in minor. Also in major mode, the third
entry of this section does not come near the intensity of the four part
entry in the first section.
The ensuing episode creates, as was observed earlier, a dynamic curve and concludes both the second section and the first half of the fugue with the first explicit cadential close in this piece.
||The third section and its powerful build up of tension has already been
described in detail. This section begins with what resembles a small eruption
and combines the enhancement of parallel voice leading with a full four
part texture from the first entry of this round. After this initial entry,
E4 begins in the low keyboard range and considerably thinner texture, thus
allowing for a second outbreak with the A+S parallel. In E5, the descending
direction of the sequences and chromatic lines is counter-balanced by the
undiminished ensemble and a version of Mcs which is more closely related
to primary material than any previous one, quoting as it does the first
subphrase of the counter-subject. The tension thus remains relatively high.
The same holds true for the episode after the B+T double parallel. The tension
is now so high that further elevation seems impossible. With the two bar
return to two part texture that prepares for the final parallel statement,
Bach takes just this into account and manages to create yet another increase
This most powerful climax is then followed by a steep release, achieved by the combination of three means: the extension of the subject statement with a two bar delay of the resolution, the sudden drastic interruption of the polyphonic style in favor of homophonic chords, and the hemiola pattern with its four part rests. With the recurrence of the G minor chord in bar 75, the accumulated force of thirty bars appears dissolved all too quickly. One feels strongly that more time and soothing is needed to truly unwind.
||The coda of the fugue, beginning with E7, recapitulates in miniature the main items of the structural process found in the piece. A gradual polyphonic build-up (bars 75/76) is crowned by an intensification in double parallels (bar 77) and released in homophonic chords interspersed by simultaneous rests (bars 78/79). The redundant (varied) subject entry, accompanied by parallels of the (varied) counter-subject, concludes this dramatic fugue on a soft, conciliatory note.|