Book 1 - No. 4 - C sharp minor - Fugue
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This is an intense fugue. It is literally all subject: no countersubjects, practically no episodes, and no coda. This last point is somewhat interesting. Many of the fugues in the Well-Tempered Clavier end in a coda, episode or cadence that is subject-free. This fugue literally ends with the final note of the last complete subject entry . Two more astonishing facts describe the essence of this fugue. One, it is one of only two fugues in both books of the Well-Tempered Claiver in 5 voices (the other is Book 1, No. 22 in B-flat minor). Second, and most important, it is a triple fugue: it presents three different, independent subjects that interweave with each other in every permutation possible. It is one of only two triple fugues in the entire set of 48 fugues (the other is Book 2, No. 14 in F-sharp minor). Each subject is, of course, distinctive, but in particular, in great contrast to the other subjects (rhythmically and melodically). This way, they are distinguishable, even when running against each other. This fugue is packed with stretto, between multiple statements of each individual subject as well as the subjects against each other. As typical with fugues with multiple subjects, there is a clear sectional organization. The first subject dominates the first section, the second subject the second, and the third, the third. The psychological effect upon listening to this fugue is indescribable. Once you can relax and place your listening in the middle of this dense structure, you can experience one of the greatest pleasures of polyphonic music: the simultaneity of multiple unique but ultimately interdependent ideas, complexity as a coherent unity.