Bach: The Art of Fugue

Bach: The Art of Fugue

by Emerson String Quartet


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Bach never specified the instrumentation for his last work, The Art of Fugue, giving performers and transcribers wide leeway to realize this contrapuntal magnum opus, and there have been versions for orchestra, brass ensemble, keyboards (piano, harpsichord, organ), and even saxophone quartet. The four-part texture and overall sobriety of the music have made The Art of Fugue particularly attractive to string quartets, however, and a number of fine ensembles have recorded it. The Emerson String Quartet, known for the intensity of their performances, give a finely focused interpretation here, with sparing use of vibrato -- though they avoid the white, viol-like tone of the Keller Quartet (ECM). They shape the lines expressively, yet there is a feeling of restraint that seems entirely appropriate to music of such Olympian rigor. Contrapunctus XIV, which, as the legend goes, the blind composer dictated from his deathbed, is played just as Bach left it, the four lines trailing off into silence where he breathed his last. It is one of the most moving moments in all music, and the simple sincerity of the Emerson's version makes a powerful effect. Not to end on such a somber note, there is the beautiful chorale setting "Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermet", BWV 668a -- a traditional encore for The Art of Fugue that provides a beatific yet still solemn sense of closure.

Product Details

Release Date: 08/12/2003
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
UPC: 0028947449522
catalogNumber: 000090802


  1. Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue), BWV 1080

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Bach: The Art of Fugue 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am very pleased with this thoughtful album and its liner notes. This thing is worth its weight in gold.