Welcome! 🙂 I hope the daily music posts here on the blog are giving you a boost, in these strange and unsettling times. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, you’ll find the first one here.
Today’s post features music by Baroque powerhouse J. S. Bach (1685-1750). This is a selection from Volume 2 of Bach’s collection The Well-Tempered Clavier, which for Bach, was basically a study of the intricate compositional form fugue.
You can read more about fugue in my post here. The particular example of the form you’ll hear today, Bach’s Fugue in D Major, is one of my favorites.
The piano as we know it didn’t exist in Bach’s time. Bartolomeo Cristofori, the first piano builder, had begun working during Bach’s lifetime: Cristofori was a harpsichord builder who began to experiment with new ways of designing the instrument so that it would be able to play both soft and loud. (This is why the piano has its name: pianoforte literally means soft-loud.) But Cristofori’s early attempts were small, percussive, and not very appealing to many musicians. Bach himself said he thought that the new “piano” had no future. (Even geniuses can make mistakes.)
The instrument that Bach had in mind when he wrote today’s fugue was the harpsichord. I love this particular fugue because it explores the full range of the keyboard, at its climax reaching simultaneously down into the low bass and up into the high treble. The modern piano can go lower and higher still, but for Bach’s harpsichord, this would have been about the limits of its range. Bach uses that inexorable reach to the two extremes to create a powerful and cathartic climax.
Hope you enjoy the recording. 🙂 As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments. Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!
P.S. for those on Facebook: tonight, Saturday, 4/4, I’ll be giving a short concert via Facebook Live. If you’ve been enjoying the blog, I’d love to have you tune in on my FB page on Saturday at 7 pm EST, for about half an hour of music by Mendelssohn, Bach, Beethoven, and Gershwin.