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Johann Sebastian Bach
The Art of Fugue

Craig Sheppard
- piano

Bach - The Art of Fugue
Contrapunctus 1, BWV 1080/1

The origins of The Art of Fugue are obscure. Bach had always entertained the idea of a magnum opus that would challenge his creativity in an area that he loved and where he was already a master, that of fugal writing. The idea might have been given further impetus as the result of an indirect dare from the great Baroque theorist, Johann Mattheson, who is said to have provoked Bach into proving his mettle in this greatest of contrapuntal mediums in 1738. Apocryphal or not, Bach started composing the work that very year, completing it in 1742, and began a revision immediately thereafter. We are hearing the revised score, left incomplete at Bach's death in 1750. To compose a series of fugues, or contrapuncti, was a challenge that involved constructing a theme that would provide the basis for good countersubjects, inversions, diminished and augmented values, and canons - in essence, every possible transformation of fugal melody...