Updates: The Keyboard Music of J. S. Bach

Updates for The Keyboard Music of J. S. Bach

Chapter 8
In the Vivaldi concerto arrangement BWV 973, I have concluded after long practice that the fingering shown in example 8.1 is not practical, at least not on the instruments on which I have tried to use it, and that it is effective after all to play instead on divided keyboards in mm. 56b–61a of the third movement. This can be prepared by using divided keyboards earlier in all three movements, the right hand playing on the lower (forte) manual, the left on the upper (piano) one, as follows: in first movement, mm. 22–35a, 46–69, 76b–89, and 117–24a; throughout the second movement; and in third movement, mm. 8b–12a, 21 (note 2)–27, and 49b–55a.
Chapter 15
Joshua Rifkin has shown that the scherzo of the Third Partita was suggested not by Bonporti’s violin pieces—though the latter may well have been where Bach first saw such a title—but by keyboard pieces that Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch played during a visit to Leipzig. Rifkin (2007, 31–43) convincingly places the latter in 1726, the year before Bach published the partita, with its added scherzo movement. This point arises in the course of an argument for dating the B-minor orchestral suite BWV 1067, or at least its final movement, the Battinerie, to this same period. Rifkin shows that the parallels between the latter movement and the scherzo include their 2/4 meter, triadic opening motive, and staccato bass that outlines a rising triad in the opening measures. The two are also in the same key, A minor, if one accepts Rifkin’s strong argument that the suite was originally a whole step lower. To be sure, Hurlebusch’s scherzos do not seem to open in the middle of the measure, as Bach does, and Rifkin’s “scamper[ing]” flute in the Battinerie (Rifkin 2007, 73) may be a mis-characterization if one accepts Williams’s argument that 2/4 does not, for Bach, imply an especially quick tempo. That argument is in fact strengthened by the Vivace marking of the one Hurlebusch scherzo that Rifkin gives as an example; vivace is used for minuets but not for very quick pieces in the early eighteenth century.
Chapter 18
Gregory Butler, repudiating his earlier findings (1983a), now argues that it is a “myth” that Bach intended the Art of Fugue to include the incomplete Fuga a 3 soggetti or that the latter was meant to incorporate the subject of the Art of Fugue as its fourth theme (or third countersubject; see Butler 2008, 116–7). In fact, the argument that the piece was to have appeared on six pages of the original publication—the basis of the reconstruction in both editions of the present book—was always provisional, due to the uncertain reading of what Butler originally took to be altered page numbers in the print. But there can be no question that the incomplete fugue is a late Bach fragment standing in need of explanation (if not completion); nor can there be any uncertainty that the subject of the Art of Fugue does combine contrapuntally with the three subjects of the fragment, as Nottebohm and countless authors since have recognized. Butler finds Nottebohm’s “syncopation of the principal subject . . . forced and unnatural” (Butler 2008, 112n. 24), but this is to disregard the solution shown in example 18.9. Butler’s ingenious suggestion that Bach might have intended the work as a contribution for Menzel’s Corresponding Society is unfortunately speculative. By the same token, it remains speculation that a single quadruple mirror fugue in four parts, never composed, might have filled out the “other basic plan” (andere Grund Plan) mentioned in a mysterious addition by Agricola on the autograph fragment. One can imagine any number of organizations (or re-organizations) of the work’s movements, and Bach doubtless considered various possibilities, including some not yet imagined by his scholars.
Whether the Fuga a 3 soggetti belongs to the Art of Fugue is, like similar questions concerning the early version of Contrapunctus 10a and the duo version of Contrapunctus 13, a matter of definition. It is clear enough that, as with the Musical Offering, the Goldberg Variations, and other works, Bach continued to elaborate and add to the Art of Fugue after its initial plan had been completed. As with the canons composed on the royal fugue subject or over the Goldberg bass line, the relationship of the new movements to the main or original portion of the collection is uncertain only if one insists that a particular sequence or design must be definitive.
Appendix A
On BWV 905, the reference to a “dropping out of the bass” in mm. 3–4 of the prelude is an error for the “dropping out of the upper parts.”
The article cited as Rifkin (n.d.) is the one now cited here as Rifkin (2007).
Butler, Gregory G. 2008. “Scribes, Engravers, and Notational Styles: The Final Disposition of Bach’s Art of Fugue.” In Butler, Stauffer, and Greer (2008, 111–23).
Butler, Gregory G., ed. 2007. Bach Perspectives, Volume 6: J. S. Bach’s Concerted Ensemble Music, The Ouverture. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.Butler, Gregory G., George B. Stauffer, and Mary Dalton Greer, eds. 2008. About Bach. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.Rifkin, Joshua. 2007. “The ‘B-Minor Flute Suite’ Deconstructed: New Light on Bach’s Ouverture BWV 1067.” In Butler (2007, 1–98).
Updated October 20, 2008