Fugue on a theme of Corelli (BWV 579) for Woodwind Quartet

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Uploaded on Jan 5, 2013

Johann Sebastian Bach was better known as a virtuoso organist than as a composer in his day. His sacred music, organ and choral works, and other instrumental music had an enthusiasm and seeming freedom that concealed immense rigor. Bach's use of counterpoint was brilliant and innovative, and the immense complexities of his compositional style -- which often included religious and numerological symbols that seem to fit perfectly together in a profound puzzle of special codes -- still amaze musicians today. Many consider him the greatest composer of all time.

The date of composition here is uncertain, though the high quality of the work suggests Bach had already attained a mastery of the fugue form. Thus, it probably dates at least to the early years of the composer's Weimar period (1708 - 1717), during which he was the court organist in the service of the Duke of Sachsen-Weimar. In this Fugue in B minor, he uses a theme by Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli, who gave it a vigorous (Allegro) treatment. Bach, on the other hand, slows the tempo and imaginatively alters its character, converting its vivacity to a slightly melancholy deliberateness. Bach presents Corelli's theme in a somber dressing at the outset, the pacing leisurely, the textures light. There is virtually no hint of the Italianate character or lively manner of the original here. Instead, the music has a serious demeanor, but is hardly devoid of color and spirit. As the work proceeds, inner voices become more active, textures thicken, and a subtle sense of tension develops, culminating in an ambivalent but resolute ending. Bach's fugal writing is brilliantly crafted throughout, growing somewhat more animated in the brighter second half.

Although originally composed for Organ, I created this arrangement for Woodwind Quartet (Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet and Bassoon).


Pages 7
Duration 03:55
Measures 102
Key signature 1 flat
Parts 4
Part names Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon
Privacy Everyone can see this score
License None (All rights reserved)
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