J.S. Bach, BWV 1001, Sonata 1 in G Minor, II - Fuga, Tutorial (Part 1)

Bach’s theoretical training differed from ours. Rather than identifying chords in terms of functional harmony (for example, I-IV-V), music education in Bach’s time focused on intervals above a bass line.

This particular method teaches students the skills to improvise and to compose with greater facility than does the training of later composers.

A very simple summary of this approach is encapsulated in the “Rule of the Octave.” Basically, the premise of the Rule of the Octave is that there are chords in motion and chords at rest. Certain bass notes ask for motion, and other bass notes ask for repose.

This video will explain the concept, hands-on, using the best-known and much-loved Fuga from the Sonata, BWV 1001.

In the critical notes to our edition of the Sonatas and Partitas, we mention that the subject of this fuga was used earlier in a Sonata by Giuseppi Colombi. The term “sonata” in Colombi’s time simply denoted music that was meant to be listened to, rather than sung or to accompany a dancer.

Colombi’s Sonata is actually a ricercar, an early forerunner of the fugue with tonic and dominant entries. Comparing the fuga to Colombi’s ricercar sheds light on how (even though both pieces are built upon similar frameworks) the ricercar lends itself to variation techniques whereas Bach’s fuga is set up from the very opening to allow for long-range harmonic development.

While the exploration of historical facts can be inherently fascinating, our primary objective with these videos is to assist players in reaching their desired interpretations. We hope this video will be a valuable resource in achieving that goal.