Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist,
harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and
secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo
instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque
period and brought it to its ultimate maturity.
Although he did not introduce new forms, he enriched
the prevailing German style with a robust contrapuntal
technique, an unrivalled control of harmonic and
motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms,
forms and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy
The sole surviving copy of Fugue in E Minor (BWV 956)
is by a student of Kellner, it might have been copied
from a manuscript in Kellner's possession. Stinson
(1989a, 130) suggests that Kellner himself could have
been the composer, finding that the piece "betrays
nothing of the experimental range of Bach's early
efforts." But this is perhaps to overlook the chromatic
counter-melody in mm. 25-6, the Neapoli-tan harmonies
in mm. 48 and 49, and the well-handled acceleration of
surface motion in the final section. There are also
clumsy moments, including hidden fifths between the two
lower parts (m. 21) and a banal lapse into parallel
thirds (m. 28). But there is greater variety of
texture, harmony, and voice leading, and more of a
sense of drama, than in two fugues known to be by
Kellner himself)' The latter also lack the vestiges of
seventeenth-century style found here, such as the
persistent figure torte. The subject, as in BWV 905/2,
is of the sequential type that Bach used in some early
fugues but largely abandoned after his Weimar period.
The fugue as a whole resembles those early efforts of
Bach in which, after the initial exposition, single
entries of the subject alternate with substantial
episodes. The choice of modulations suggests some tonal
planning, a move to the relative major falling near the
exact center (m. 35b). The final entry, in the bass (m.
63), is prepared by an ascending sequence that moves to
the tonic swiftly and surely from the fairly remote key
of F.', using clever if dissonant voice leading (mm.
57b-60a). In short, BWV 956 remains a "possible" early
work of Bach's.
Sole source: P 804/8 (Leonhart Frischmuth; facsimile in
Stinson 1989a, 131). Editions: BC 42, NBA V/12.
Although originally written for Harpsichord. I created
this Interpretation of the Fugue in E Minor (BWV 956)
for Double-Reed Trio (Oboe, English Horn & Bassoon).