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Bach: The Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080 [Excerpts]

By Erik Petersons on June 14, 2017.

Toward the middle and end of the 1730s there is a perceptible change in Bach's orientation, a change that, regardless of all continuity of Bach's highly developed idiom, gives a characteristic stamp to the works of the last twelve years....it arose logically from the aging Bach's increasingly systematic realization of a synthesis of his rich creative experience and his manifold musical interests.

The Art of Fugue and the B Minor Mass conform to this striking Bachian trait of 'intending to excel above others and oneself.'  The Art of Fugue is linked to earlier fugue compositions yet moves to a level that is novel in principle.  The entire multi-sectional work is derived from the same thematic material, a musical plan that presupposed a far-reaching process of thought with regard to the harmonic-contrapuntal implications of the chosen theme.

—Christoph Wolff, Bach: Essays on His Life and Music, 1994

The second installment in the project podcast series explores the late style of Bach and Beethoven, in contrast with how we perceive this phenomenon in 20th-century composers.

Our interview with Christoph Wolff discusses how the historical and sociocultural context shaped the late styles of Bach and Mozart.

This work was performed on the first concert of PCMS' Departure & Discovery Project at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater.