Puzzle of the Weekend 2

Going through my 2mt-wide bookshelf of harpsichord music, every day I play a handful of pieces. Yesterday I encountered a rarely-played, yet extraordinary “xxx and fugue” for the keyboard, composed c1725. Right in the middle of the fugue there is a false conclusion, after which a second subject is introduced. Nothing special so far: we all know many baroque “double fugues” that have this feature.

What is unique in this fugue is that this second subject begins with a descending 6-note chromatic scale. During an impressive 24 bars, the original fugue subject is not used, only the second chromatic one, yielding a chromaticism very rarely found in baroque fugues.

Needless to say, chromatic scales with 6 and even more notes are found in other Baroque works that are not fugues, for example in Vivaldi Nisi Dominus’s Alto aria “Cum dederit”. Long chromatic passages are also found in other “learned” baroque fugues: a well known example is as a countersubject in Contrapunctus 11 of The Art of Fugue. However, in these as well as all the examples known to me (but I may well be wrong!), a simple descending chromatic scale is never employed as a fugue subject, only in the one I am puzzling my fellow “Jackrailers” with.

Just to avoid futile searches: it is not in Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier or the Art of Fugue. :slight_smile:

BWV 904!
A magnificent work…

1 Like

Too many clues I think Claudio. I will say that although the first subject does not literally put in an appearance over those 24 bars there is a prominent counter-theme around the chromatic scale which reads as its ‘jazzed up’ diminution, so the pattern remains in mind.

Also interesting to compare with BWV 887 - same contour and scale degrees in the subject and same 6 chromatic degrees beginning the 2nd subject. (Therefore, not unique.)

1 Like

Who else but Bach?

You are going to have to start awarding prizes Claudio!

1 Like

Thanks Davitt, right on the spot!

1 Like

Interesting observation Thomas Dent!
Nevertheless I find BWV 887 less appealing, with a lesser complexity perhaps because it has 3 voices instead of 4.

I promise to find something more difficult next time, problem is, it has already happened that I got hardly any reply in the past!

BWV904 works very well on an organ :slight_smile:
{2 for the price of 1}


Indeed draak, no autograph is extant, just manuscript copies, one labelled for organ “manualiter”, another “pro cembalo.” Although the Fugue sounds equally well (but very different!) on either instrument, I find that the Fantasy with its percussive and much filled chords is significantly better sounding on the harpsichord.