Book 1 - No. 6 - D minor - Fugue
music || notes || words || images prelude


Taken at a moderate pace, and chilled with the pensive preoccupation of the minor mode, this fugue feels deeply reflective. Gregorian Chant from the Medieval period haunts our modern ears with a similar personality. Chief among its exotic facets for us are the long unbroken utterances, long lines of music that, though restful, never seem to rest. From the quiet, a draft of a mood rises and falls, soft at its edges, a long, unresolved sigh.

Music of the Baroque has much of this character. Bach fugues are filled with long lines of intertwining textures that grow and branch, the meditative subject recurring like so many similar leaves along the spine. And a sense of conclusion, completeness and rest occurs only at relatively few precious moments, where the blossom of a cadence gives us respite to breath again.

This fugue can be experienced as a meditation in but two long breaths. There are two distinct and conclusive cadences, marking off two sections of approximately equal length. Like a prayer spoken in two sentences, the fugue finishes with a final word, amen, intoned by not three but four voices, a unified choir singing the eighth notes of the subject which then cadence again, accepting silence in lieu of previously unfulfilled subject continuation. The two long unbroken sections share an approximately equal number of subject statements with an important contrast: in the first section, the subject is mostly in its original form (rectus); in the second section, it is mostly inverted. If this contrast, like a thesis and its antithesis, requires resolution, Bach provides it. The final two measures (the amen) synthesize both shapes of the subject head in four voices, two rectus, two inverted. Here the two main branches of the fugue intertwine, and silence is their final flower.