Book 1 - No. 8 - D sharp minor - Fugue
music || notes || words || images prelude


This fugue is dominated by its subject with proportionally very little subject-free episode and no significant counter material. Instead, Bach concentrates on subject variation or transformation; in addition to its standard or rectus form, the subject is presented inverted, augmented, and rhythmically varied. After the exposition, you can hear the subject and its variants in various combinations of stretto, laid out in a highly structured plan that systematically but organically grows in complexity. Like many of Bach's fugues, this has a plan which exhibits much order, logic and balance. It is marvelous that as musical experience, this fugue is a wonderfully natural narrative.

exposition - four subject entries, the lower voice taking two entries in a row
three pairs of subject entries in stretto (upper and middle voices only)
re-exposition - three inverted subject entries
two pairs of subject entries in stretto
three subject entries in stretto - all three voices
three inverted subject entries in stretto - all three voices
a lone subject entry in the upper voice
three augmented subject entries (one per voice) surrounded by subject entry variants in stretto

The last section is particularly rich due to the utter saturation of the texture with so many subject entries layered on top of each other at different speeds. It is nearly impossible to follow analytically: one must simply give over to the apotheosis. Subject augmentation is a powerful device for reinforcing the identity and significance of the subject. Hearing the subject at half the speed, taking up twice the time, it as if one feels a new, deeper reality. The augmented subject feels heavier, bigger, more final, more ultimate. There is something inexplicably miraculous about a single augmented subject entry spanning (encompassing, engulfing, transcending, subsuming) multiple standard subject entries. Here enter multiple time dimensions that create a sensation of parallelism or simultaneity that awakens you to a new reality altogether. This is music that sings on multiple levels that describe a new hierarchical unity, music of the concentric, nested spheres.