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
BWV 949 is another fugue in A Major, preserved like BWV
896 in copies by Johann Christoph Bach and from the
Kellner circle. The use of A major in both fugues may
be only a coincidence, but as BWV 949 is another
contrapuntally organized fugue it is possible that Bach
associated rigorous counterpoint with the use of what
was at the time a fairly adventurous key on the far
"sharp" side of C.
Although BWV 896 is likely a considerably earlier
composition than BWV 949 but, the pieces have much in
common. As in BWV 896, the subject of BWV 949 moves by
step after an initial "repercussive" motive, and the
few episodes are brief and restrained. The present
subject is more square, without strong dance
implications, but the writing gradually grows more
exuberant, with hints of violin style in the episodic
passages. Figuration emerges triumphant over
contrapuntal work in a short pedaliter coda. Elsewhere
as well BWV 949 is the more adventurous of the two
pieces. Only BWV 949 modulates to F# minor, even
introducing the subject—in inversion—in that key (m.
35). In addition, two rectus entries of the subject are
altered chromatically to permit modulations to the
relative minor (mm. 22, 61). There is no tonal design
underlying the piece as a whole; instead the design
turns on the introduction of the inversion a little
before the midpoint (m. 35). But this does coincide
with the least ephemeral of the modulations to Fit
minor, the only one marked by a strong cadence in that
key (m. 41). Unfortunately the significance of this
moment is later upstaged when a significant-sounding
flourish (m. 60) leads to merely a second arrival on
Fit minor. The fugue must be one of the earliest of
Bach's to have a regular counter-subject—two
countersubjects, actually. More importantly, there is
little motivic material anywhere that is not directly
related to the subject or the first counter-subject.
Unfortunately, this single-mindedness is not to the
piece's advantage, nor is the obsession with the
relative minor. The fugue repeats itself several times;
the second of the two altered entries in the relative
minor is almost a reprise of the first one, but because
it is not part of a larger recapitulation the
parallelism seems accidental.
Sources: D B Mus. ms. 10580; P 487; LEu N.1. 10338 (M.
pr. Ms. 20'); US NHy LM 4941; Gb. Editions: BG 36;
Dadelsen and Riinnau (1970), NBA V/9.2.
Although originally written for Harpsichord. I created
this Interpretation of the Fugue in A Major (BWV 948)
Transposed to F Major for Brass Quartet (Bb Trumpet,
Flugelhorn, French Horn & Tuba).