If you think the video, J.S. Bach, BWV 1001, Sonata 1 in G Minor, II - Fuga, Tutorial (Part 1), required a geek alert, then you may think that this one requires a double-geek alarm. But wait! Don't go away yet because there is also a game to play.
We can probably all agree that Bach's music is built on a sense of expectation. That expectation is either thwarted––to our delight, or fulfilled––to our great satisfaction. But sometimes, if we look in closely, we can find what just looks like a broken rule. There are many frustrated music theory students who complain that if Bach could break the rule, then why can’t they?
When we run into this kind of broken rule, something that is actually sort of hidden in the music in a way that escapes our notice unless we actually go “looking for trouble,” it always begs the question: “What could Bach have been thinking?"
What we found, while arranging the Sonatas and Partitas for the guitar, was that many times, when the music didn't quite go as expected, it was because of the tuning of the violin. Some of these instances are discussed in the performance notes of our edition of this music. But the physical limitation of the instrument is only one of the types of challenges that Bach encountered.
Coming back to our game, whenever it seems that Bach may have broken a compositional rule, it is always revealing to alter the passage by “correcting” the broken rule, and then see what happens. Invariably, we run into the same problem that Bach did! It’s like peeking inside his mind, seeing the compositional process from the inside out.
And now, coming back to the video (Part one): While discussing the exposition of the G-minor fugue, I (Heather) mentioned that the subject was answered in the subdominant, rather than the dominant, as is the norm. Truth be told, at the time that I made this video, I just thought that Bach was being extra creative. But putting it to the test, and trying it with the subject in the expected dominant, we see that if Bach had simply followed the standard protocol, he would have been in very deep trouble indeed. In fact, not one of the subjects in any of the three fugues in the Sonatas and Partitas is answered with an exact repetition up five scale degrees. That is what this video explores.
So, whether you are a student or a performer or a theorist, or if you are someone who wants to learn as much as you can about the Sonatas and Partitas, you may find this video enlightening.
As always, let us know what you think.