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The Art of Fugue (BWV 1080), Transcriptions of the Conterpoints for Organ

Par Claude Charlier —— 

This first edition of The Art of the Fugue, part of the "Bach In Colour" collection, is for any organists who might wish to embark upon the perilous adventure of a concert performance.

Most four-part editions of The Art of the Fugue use four clefs, the soprano clef, the alto clef, the tenor clef and the bass clef.

Before you can tackle this complex music you will first need to do some "solfege exercises", because few musicians nowadays are still capable of reading these different clefs at the same time. I have produced this edition of The Art of the Fugue using only treble and bass clefs in order to get over this first obstacle and this is also why I have carried out this transcription making no changes to the clefs in the various parts.

Although the two-clef edition published by Boosey & Hawkes (1951), uses changes of clef in the musical discourse; es- sentially in the alto and tenor parts, this often only affects a few notes (Counterpoint IV, T, bar 41: 5 notes; Counterpoint V, T, bars 60 and 61: 2 notes; Counterpoint VII, A, bar 60: 5 notes; or sometimes even just a single note (Counterpoint X, T, bar 37.).

I must admit that even when a number of bars are involved, this way of tackling the transcription offers more drawbacks than advantages - the biggest problem with it, I feel, is that the linearity of the melody is broken and the contrapuntal design is cut short.

So, if I repeat the last example I mentioned, this "A" which is a flight of fancy, an opening in the musical discourse - which should be thrown out, like a cry, in the performance - is portrayed misleadingly in the score by a note which is some way below the one before it. When tackling this music, the performer must be able to stand adding a few unusual additional lines, especially as in most cases they come up as part of a compound linear continuity which presents no rea- ding difficulties. In fact, using this transcription technique, I am going back to the spirit of the original four-clef score.

Do we need to come up with an instrumental way of playing this "bible"? The music was undoubtedly written for the eclectic enjoyment of just one person, indeed it is the fact that this music has to be taken mentally on board and assimila- ted by a single mind which makes it so difficult and, above all, so mentally tiring.

This is not just a matter of personal bias - the organ is the only instrument which allows this music to be performed by a single person. The harpsichord - so dear to G. Leonhardt - would be acceptable but that instrument comes up against the problem of holding long note values (Counterpoints VII, IX, XII, XIX).
Here I am giving the quintessence of The Art of the Fugue, in other words all of the four-part counterpoints.

A longer performance would be absurd, unnecessary, too tiring for the performer and too demanding for the audience!


Claude Charlier


The Art of the Fugue (BWV 1080), Transcription of the Four-Part Counterpoints using treble and bass Clefs, for the organ, by Claude Charlier.

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Vendredi 8 Juillet, 2016 19:35