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Topic: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue  (Read 1805 times)

Offline sandvik

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Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
on: September 05, 2020, 09:58:10 PM
I have played piano for quite a while, but have never really played any Bach, and I am not very familiar with the pieces in Bach's books with the preludes and fugues. Do you have any suggestions to a beautiful fugue to start with, preferably in minor?
A few pieces I am playing as a reference are: Chopin etude op. 10 no. 4, op. 25 no. 2 and 4. Moonlight and pathetique sonata.
Thanks 😘

Offline brogers70

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #1 on: September 05, 2020, 10:43:48 PM
In Book 1 of WTC the c minor and d minor fugues are, I think, the least difficult minor key fugues, and each is quite beautiful. Maybe a good place to start for a first fugue. After that, there are lots, c# minor is my favorite, Bb and Eb minor are both really beautiful.

Offline j_tour

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #2 on: September 07, 2020, 03:19:56 AM
Yeah, for sure the WTCI C minor is considered easier.  I don't care for the D minor so much, for some reason, but that can be played.

The Bb is considered easier, but I think it's pretty tricky in the sense that there are some options to work with, both in the fugue and the prelude, which happen to work nicely as a set.

The E major is really clever and is also considered not too difficult.  Not to mention the E minor, with just two voices, but a lot of fun to play, sort of in one breath.

And the C major, although it can get a little tiresome, and I'd be happy to never hear the prelude again as long as I live.  Same with the C minor prelude:  yeah it's cute and everything, but doesn't really compare to the fugue, which is an absolute cassic.

You know, from the Ars fuga, the Contrapunctus IX is not all that demanding once you decide how to divide up the voices, and is kind of sophisticated in its way.  It's just pretty long, and I haven't been able to memorize more than about half of it.  It's also just plain fun to play.

Or the very first fugue from Ars fuga:  that can certainly be done, although it's a little bit heavy in mood, kind of a dark mood.

Yeah, I tossed in a few major key fugues, but that's just what came to mind just now.

You can certainly play the notes to the Bbm WTCI, but...that might be deceptively easy-looking rather than to get a very good result from.  Or maybe it's longer cousin, the A minor from WTCI:  it doesn't look so bad on the page, but it's pretty darn long and there's a lot going on there.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline andhow04

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #3 on: September 09, 2020, 05:29:43 PM
I have played piano for quite a while, but have never really played any Bach, and I am not very familiar with the pieces in Bach's books with the preludes and fugues. Do you have any suggestions to a beautiful fugue to start with, preferably in minor?
A few pieces I am playing as a reference are: Chopin etude op. 10 no. 4, op. 25 no. 2 and 4. Moonlight and pathetique sonata.
Thanks 😘

i would definitely say c minor from WTC Book I, it's the most straightforward fugue in the whole set and if you can play the repertoire you mentioned, you can play that.

d minor is a boring fugue in my opinion but you can learn some of the techniques from there because it is also easier to play.

D major has a wonderful prelude and fugue combination that is good for fingerwork and rhythm

B-flat major has a great prelude in the violin style, and the fugue can be a little tricky with fingering at times but is interesting because it is not really a fugue in the sense of the others.

c# minor is a great fugue and fits very well under the hands, it is long but it is so beautiful and captivating. not virtuoso but difficult to get the pulse

Offline brogers70

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #4 on: September 09, 2020, 06:55:39 PM
Hm. A couple of votes against the d minor fugue. I understand why some people are not keen on it. For me it's nice because if you are new to fugues you can see, and hear, the inversions of the subject very clearly, even, at one point, in stretto with the right-side up version. If you are going to play fugues well, I think you have to learn to hear all those fugal devices, inversion, stretto, diminution, and augmentation, so you can help the listener hear them, too.  So I included the d minor because it is technically not too hard and also illustrates a couple of techniques in fugue writing that you want to learn to hear.

Offline cranston53

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #5 on: September 09, 2020, 08:05:24 PM
If you're new to Bach, I would actually recommend starting with the Inventions and Sinfonias. They're some of my very favourite pieces to play - the inventions, in particular, I treat like scales, and will play through a few most days.

Starting with two voices will certainly help you develop the balancing of those voices and you can then take that to three parts in the Sinfonias.

I think it would be tricky to jump straight into WTC. Bach is a different beast.

Offline j_tour

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #6 on: September 10, 2020, 01:37:26 AM
If you're new to Bach, I would actually recommend starting with the Inventions and Sinfonias. They're some of my very favourite pieces to play - the inventions, in particular, I treat like scales, and will play through a few most days.

Starting with two voices will certainly help you develop the balancing of those voices and you can then take that to three parts in the Sinfonias.

I think it would be tricky to jump straight into WTC. Bach is a different beast.

Note emphasis added to "two voices":  ahem....E minor WTCI!  It's fun, brief, and sounds kind of wicked and twisted.  The subject is repeated I don't remember in how many keys, but quite a few, so it can be good ear training as well, of a sort.

That's very true.  I similarly treat the Inv+Sinf as sort of daily ritual.  I still do scales, but the Bach Inv+Sinf sort of keep me a little bit sane.  And yes, there are a few Sinf. I still am unhappy with the way I play them, so it's a bit of learning as well that isn't too demanding for me.

And some of the Sinfonie are not at all dissimilar to fugues, at least in complexity if not in strict form.

I did finally buy the Henle edition of Bach's "Little Preludes and Fugues," mostly because I think it's fascinating to hear masters of Bach on keyboard turn what some might dismiss as "easy child's music" into very interesting performances.  I think I had some photocopies, but those have a way of getting buried among other papers, and I'd say I got my money's worth by having a solid book I can sight-read from and copy some ideas.

Hm. A couple of votes against the d minor fugue. I understand why some people are not keen on it. For me it's nice because if you are new to fugues you can see, and hear, the inversions of the subject very clearly, even, at one point, in stretto with the right-side up version. If you are going to play fugues well, I think you have to learn to hear all those fugal devices, inversion, stretto, diminution, and augmentation, so you can help the listener hear them, too.  So I included the d minor because it is technically not too hard and also illustrates a couple of techniques in fugue writing that you want to learn to hear.

Those are great arguments in favor of the D minor WTCI.

I'll take a rebel stand and suggest that the first fugue from the Ars fuga is even easier, and has all the elements you'd want in a very straightforward fugue.  Of course it's in D minor as well, and the subject couldn't really be any simpler. 

Do not under any circumstances do the fourth fugue from AF, though, unless you want to become suicidally depressed and want to give up piano forever.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.

I will defend the 9th from AF, provided the OP wants a bit of a longer-term challenge.  It's rather long and quite a few parts need some figuring out, but it's not that bad technique wise.

And for the short, easy, and fun, I still think the E minor from WTCI fugue is just so much fun to play.

B-flat major has a great prelude in the violin style, and the fugue can be a little tricky with fingering at times but is interesting because it is not really a fugue in the sense of the others.

Can I ask how you mean the fugue is different in some important way?  It's nice to hear from a fellow player of that P+F set, and I agree the fugue is not as simple technically to play as legend has it, but it seems like a regular fugue to me.  I like it on the modern piano because of the texture of the voices in thirds:  basically, I think it sounds neat and has the repeated notes, as in the prelude to the G minor Engl Suite as a recurring motif that I find refreshing in Bach.

No criticism meant, I'm just curious.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline andhow04

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #7 on: September 12, 2020, 02:35:57 PM
Note emphasis added to "two voices":  ahem....E minor WTCI!  It's fun, brief, and sounds kind of wicked and twisted.  The subject is repeated I don't remember in how many keys, but quite a few, so it can be good ear training as well, of a sort.

That's very true.  I similarly treat the Inv+Sinf as sort of daily ritual.  I still do scales, but the Bach Inv+Sinf sort of keep me a little bit sane.  And yes, there are a few Sinf. I still am unhappy with the way I play them, so it's a bit of learning as well that isn't too demanding for me.

And some of the Sinfonie are not at all dissimilar to fugues, at least in complexity if not in strict form.

I did finally buy the Henle edition of Bach's "Little Preludes and Fugues," mostly because I think it's fascinating to hear masters of Bach on keyboard turn what some might dismiss as "easy child's music" into very interesting performances.  I think I had some photocopies, but those have a way of getting buried among other papers, and I'd say I got my money's worth by having a solid book I can sight-read from and copy some ideas.

Those are great arguments in favor of the D minor WTCI.

I'll take a rebel stand and suggest that the first fugue from the Ars fuga is even easier, and has all the elements you'd want in a very straightforward fugue.  Of course it's in D minor as well, and the subject couldn't really be any simpler. 

Do not under any circumstances do the fourth fugue from AF, though, unless you want to become suicidally depressed and want to give up piano forever.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.

I will defend the 9th from AF, provided the OP wants a bit of a longer-term challenge.  It's rather long and quite a few parts need some figuring out, but it's not that bad technique wise.

And for the short, easy, and fun, I still think the E minor from WTCI fugue is just so much fun to play.

Can I ask how you mean the fugue is different in some important way?  It's nice to hear from a fellow player of that P+F set, and I agree the fugue is not as simple technically to play as legend has it, but it seems like a regular fugue to me.  I like it on the modern piano because of the texture of the voices in thirds:  basically, I think it sounds neat and has the repeated notes, as in the prelude to the G minor Engl Suite as a recurring motif that I find refreshing in Bach.

No criticism meant, I'm just curious.

i dont meanto be too down on d minor WTC I but i personally find it musically uninteresting, from the point of view of learning about fugues i guess it is valuble because it is very straightforward and has the inversion element. for me its the kind of fugue that i think of when audiences complain about boring fugues.. lol its fine

as far as the B-flat, to get into the weeds, it is a good example of why it is hard to define fugue. the old argument is: is it a texture, ie a way of laying out all the voices, or a procedure, ie a form with expectations and boxes to check.

the B-flat is interesting to me because it is a fugal "texture" but it is actually just three-part invertible counterpoint. there's no fugal "procedure" because instead of the voices being independent, and developing, they only pass around the same ideas. compare it to the A major Prelude, which is not a fugal texture at all but is in clear three part invertible counterpoint.

so to my mind it is a subtle difference, and probably easier to learn, because once you learn all the main ideas, there is no new material, just new arrangements of those materials.

for another illustration compare it to the D major fugue from Book II. in D major you will find that there are really only two ideas, and all the four voices pass them around, but they are also developed, extended, or shortened, so it is not intervible counterpoint, but a true fugue. however the number of ideas is strictly limited.

i can;t think off the top of my head of another fugue like B-flat book I, it's unique in that respect. the e minor you could argue is in intervible counterpoint, it has the dimensions of a two-part invention in binary form. also a unique fugue in that respect

love these and can go on for days!

Offline j_tour

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #8 on: September 12, 2020, 04:08:18 PM
as far as the B-flat, to get into the weeds, it is a good example of why it is hard to define fugue. the old argument is: is it a texture, ie a way of laying out all the voices, or a procedure, ie a form with expectations and boxes to check.

the B-flat is interesting to me because it is a fugal "texture" but it is actually just three-part invertible counterpoint. there's no fugal "procedure" because instead of the voices being independent, and developing, they only pass around the same ideas. compare it to the A major Prelude, which is not a fugal texture at all but is in clear three part invertible counterpoint.

That's something to think about.  It may be I don't have as strict a definition of fugue, but, in the Bb, there's subject, followed by a tonal answer, and two countersubjects, and after the second episode, the entries come in again in the subdominant, then a final set of entries in the tonic, and a nice little coda.

That's just what I have penciled in looking at the score I use.

But, you're right in that the three subjects aren't developed very much:  it is a brief fugue, after all.  It's a bit mechanical, I guess.

I've heard it both ways about the A major prelude, which I like to play as well (the fugue also, but it's a little tricky to avoid playing it as though one were hammering nails at the keyboard), so I don't truly know.

I will look at the WTC2 D major, which I don't recall at all offhand.  That sounds like a very good way you have of clarifying your ideas, by presenting examples, so a kudos for that.

Alls I know is if Bach calls it a fugue, then I believe him, and even if he doesn't, it might also be a fugue!  ;D

ETA Ad tecum, what exactly makes the WTC1 E-minor fugue a "fugue" rather than just an invention with two voices, like Scarlatti's K1 or Bach's D-min invention?  I have studied music theory and the basics, but I don't know how to state the differences, and it might be interesting to compare.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline andhow04

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #9 on: September 13, 2020, 01:17:12 PM
That's something to think about.  It may be I don't have as strict a definition of fugue, but, in the Bb, there's subject, followed by a tonal answer, and two countersubjects, and after the second episode, the entries come in again in the subdominant, then a final set of entries in the tonic, and a nice little coda.

That's just what I have penciled in looking at the score I use.

But, you're right in that the three subjects aren't developed very much:  it is a brief fugue, after all.  It's a bit mechanical, I guess.

I've heard it both ways about the A major prelude, which I like to play as well (the fugue also, but it's a little tricky to avoid playing it as though one were hammering nails at the keyboard), so I don't truly know.

I will look at the WTC2 D major, which I don't recall at all offhand.  That sounds like a very good way you have of clarifying your ideas, by presenting examples, so a kudos for that.

Alls I know is if Bach calls it a fugue, then I believe him, and even if he doesn't, it might also be a fugue!  ;D

ETA Ad tecum, what exactly makes the WTC1 E-minor fugue a "fugue" rather than just an invention with two voices, like Scarlatti's K1 or Bach's D-min invention?  I have studied music theory and the basics, but I don't know how to state the differences, and it might be interesting to compare.

sure it is a fugue as bach calls it, but it is an illustration how the technique is never used for one procedure. like you said, there is a subject,. then two countersubjects, but they just repeat in different combinations. generally speaking in a fugue the voices develop, and often bach abandons countersubjects after the first half or so (B major Book I for a nearby example).

so it is a fugue, but it is written as intervetible three part counterpoint, the voices never develop or change, they just switch around. that makes it unique in the WTC. i wouldnt call it mechanical personally, but just another technique for writing in a vague genre called fugue. the reason i quoted D major Book II is that you won't find a single bar without a piece of the subject in it, and yet the voices all develop independently and are not locked in to one kind of phrase, as they are in invertible counterpoint

not sure what you mean about :"both ways" of the A major prelude, but it is definitly in three part invertible counterpoint!

Offline j_tour

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #10 on: September 13, 2020, 07:55:42 PM
sure it is a fugue as bach calls it, but it is an illustration how the technique is never used for one procedure. like you said, there is a subject,. then two countersubjects, but they just repeat in different combinations. generally speaking in a fugue the voices develop, and often bach abandons countersubjects after the first half or so (B major Book I for a nearby example).

That's perfectly clear, and I thank you for that.  So it's a fugue, it's just not a very good one!  ;D

No, I understand your meaning as to how it differs from many others, and the D major from WTC2 is a very good contrasting example.

Quote
not sure what you mean about :"both ways" of the A major prelude, but it is definitly in three part invertible counterpoint!

Oh, it's just quite a while ago I read someone with the appropriate credentials convincingly describe the prelude as a fugue, or maybe a quasi-fugue.  I think it was here that the idea was dismissed, equally convincingly.

Regardless, I think the extent of the things to have been said on the topic illustrate the kind of diversity in form one encounters nearly constantly in Bach's music:  I'd put it down to Bach having been in a transitional period, that he perhaps invented, in part, wherein one finds a kind of fragmentation of the stricter forms.

I still think the E minor from book I is perfectly appropriate for a starter fugue:  with only two voices, and brief in form, it could well serve as a brief introduction to Bach in general.  The C minor as well, as sort of a model or Platonic ideal of the fugue, which is itself not trivial to play.  It can be sight-read, perhaps not at the tempo one desires, but it takes a little bit of effort, I'd say, to play it with clean articulation and at a brisk tempo (just my opinion).

ETA Oh, after grabbing the WTC2 out of the car and playing through it a bit, the D major is an excellent comparison to the Bb from WTC1.  Very clever.  It looks good, and I don't know why I never played it.  Something to do in spare time, so thanks!
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Offline illystraiter

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Re: Need suggestion to a Bach fugue
Reply #11 on: September 15, 2020, 12:15:07 AM
It bewilders me that some pianists will go so long without ever playing Bach. If you're at the level where you're playing Chopin Etudes, then you certaintly need to be playing Bach. Since clearly you know what you're doing at the piano, you can skip past Anna Magdalena Notebook and Little Preludes, since these are for students who are still learing to read music, etc. I would reccomend to pick an invention, pick a sinfonia, and work on them together. I love the D minor and A major inventions, and the B minor sinfonia. There is nothing at all shameful about learning these "student" works. Take your time and make them into beautiful music! After completing the invention and sinfonia to your liking, then dive into WTC. Besides the famous prelude in C from book 1, prelude and fugue have to be learned together. From Book 1, my favorites are C Minor, D major, D Minor, E Major, E Minor, and A-Flat Major, and from Book 2, my favorites are C Major, C minor, and B major. In terms of which one would be easiest to start with, E minor from book 1 is a solid choice, however the fugue only has two voices so its more of like an invetion. That being said, it is difficult becuase it is so fast! C minor from book 1 is a popular one to start with and is well rounded, giving you a fast prelude and a moderately fast fugue in three voices.
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