b Riding East: April 2020

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Bach Prelude and Fugue No. 4 in C sharp minor, BWV 849

Relative to San Francisco, it's very quiet here in Fairview, Wyoming, especially in the early spring, as the aspen's don't yet have leaves to rustle in the wind, and the forest birds are just arriving from their winter sojourn. There were no jets flying over the valley this afternoon, and I heard no coyotes -- they only howl at night.  However, I did hear Peanut snoring again.

Amidst this mostly quiet afternoon, and following recordings of the Prelude and Fugue No. 18 in G sharp minor from Bach's Well Tempered Clavier Book 1, I worked on Bach's Prelude and Fugue No. 4 in C sharp minor, also from Book 1.  I love the Prelude, so lyrical and inquisitive.  A real gem.  The Fugue is a tough -- one of the more complex pieces I've studied.  I imagine it will take time to truly understand the piece, all of the lines, the five voices in counterpoint, the masterfully developed and contrasting subjects, creating the fugue's austere, tender, yet tormented character.  It continues to grow on me.

We always learned in music theory class that you should prepare a dissonant note or chord, perhaps with a suspension, thoughtful voice leading, passing tones, etc.  Yet Bach, despite being the reference standard for tonal music theory, doesn't seem to care for such rules and uses unprepared dissonance throughout this fugue, starting with the second note of the subject -- B-sharp, the leading tone, which doesn't resolve to the tonic.  True to form, as we encounter the final cadence in bar 112, following a big dominant chord, we get a jarring and once again unprepared dissonant chord.  While Bach often uses the Picardy third to end a minor piece in the major key, here he introduces the E-sharp four bars early in a deceptive cadence, an augmented A-major chord (VI7+), first inversion.  Not expected.  When you look at Bach vertically, to me his music often seems more dissonant than, say, that of Ives.  Yet typically, within the context and horizontal flow of the piece, nothing sounds dissonant, as Bach manages to take our ears to many foreign lands that don't seem so foreign.  But not this time.

Here is the prelude, followed by the fugue.

Prelude No. 4 in C sharp minor

Fugue No. 4 in C sharp minor

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Bach Prelude & Fugue No.18 Book 1 WTC in G sharp minor BWV 863

While sheltering in place here in Fairview, Wyoming, I recorded the Prelude and Fugue in g-sharp minor, no. 18 from J.S. Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, Book I.

It's been such a difficult month -- my heart goes out to all those who are suffering or are sacrificing for the rest of us.  I can only imagine what it must be like to be working in the ER in NYC or in a distribution center or as a grocery clerk.  I feel very thankful for all of these people.

I'm also thankful that we can turn to music at such times.  I see so many people singing around the world on Smule.  It warms my heart.

I recorded the prelude and fugue on a Yamaha S400 piano.  It's soft and seems to work well for Bach.  I've actually been playing a lot lately, including quite a bit of Brahms.  I'm just trying to find the time to sit down, breath, and record.  The iPhone mic isn't great but will have to do.  Stay safe everyone.