Analysis of Bach Fugue in D Minor


The fugue can be outlined by Schulenberg as ‘A contrapuntal composition (or section or motion of a larger work) in which a theme, called a subject, is launched in a single voice after which imitated repeatedly at different pitch ranges or in numerous keys by the entire parts’. The fugue originates from the Renaissance motet, an instrumental piece from the 16th and 17th centuries usually with a title similar to ‘fantasy’. Contrapuntal fashion throughout this time was used within the constraints of the modal system, but the majority of contrapuntal options and devices of fugue type were still obtainable to those earlier composers such as Corelli and Vivaldi.

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The earliest use of the word fugue in the 16th century really meant canon strictly utilized. This then developed into the fugue as known at present. This is evident within the works of Josquin and Buxtehude, imitative contrapuntal concepts evolved in some of their works. At the time of The Well-tempered Clavier certain fugal features are defined.

In the exposition a second voice or countersubject virtually all the time follows the topic the countersubject is frequently on the pitch of the dominant.

Regular countersubjects pre-dominate so that the unity of the fugue may be emphasised. A third voice might enter with the subject usually after a slight delay. There many also be an inverted countersubject. Episodes are usually included in fugues, these are connecting passages between two expositions and their operate is to prepare for the next entry. Although the fugue is typically often known as a baroque period fashion of music, composers corresponding to Mozart, Beethoven and Braham’s have prolonged the type of the fugue.

A prominent function in their fugues is the episode. The episode is mostly used and developed extra, it normally happens straight after the exposition. J.S. Bach is well generally recognized as the main composer of fugues and keyboard music in the Baroque era. Bach developed the fugue as it is known right now. The Well-tempered Clavier e-book one and book two contain 48 preludes and fugues in all the keys of the chromatic scale.

It is broadly accepted the Bach’s The Well-tempered Clavier was modelled on J.C.F. Fischer’s Ariadne musical, a set of 20 brief preludes and fugues in a chromatic key order ascending from C-B. The prelude at all times preceeds the fugue and is a dance which is usually associated with arpeggiated movement. Bach started writing the ‘Well Tempered clavier e-book one’ during his Cothen Period, the place he was director of chamber music. It was completed in 1722. The second e-book was written throughout his Leipzig period. Bach had many influences in writing his fugues.

Michael Praetorius was one of these; he was an influential renaissance composer who discussed the traits of the fugue and its beginnings. Joachinn Bureister was one other affect; he organised and studied contrapuntal music in the method in which that it’s studied today. Bach was additionally strongly influenced by the composer Dietrich Buxtehude, as a youth Bach would go to Buxtehude during which he would gain an ‘outpour of creativity’. Some of the features Buxtehude uses are evident in Bach’s early organ fugues such because the 5 part Prelude and Fugue in A minor.

Book 1, Fugue in d minor

In Bach’s time the ultimate liberation of the key of D minor from the Dorian mode was completed. Bach used this new tonality in some of his most vital works, including the ‘Organ Toccata’ and the ‘Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue’. The intense feeling created by this key can additionally be heard on this fugue. The prelude preceding this fugue is mild and delicate with mainly arpegiated motion. This offers contrast. This fugue along with fugue quantity six and fifteen and from guide II quantity six can be categorised based on Groocock as ‘a fugue for three voices with stretto’. The fugues on this group have stretto as an important part of formal organisation; that is when the answering or imitating voice need not wait until the earlier entry has been completed to make its own entrance. The answering or imitation voice does not need to wait till the earlier entry has been completed to make its own entrance. Even although there’s is fuller use of stretto these fugues still have episodes however just in smaller numbers.


The counterpoint in this fugue is among the many strictest in The Well-Tempered Clavier. It has little or no dissonance throughout. It is also one of the unified fugues written by Bach, there is no new thematic material launched after bar 4 and the 4 episodes are fashioned from figures in the subject and counter-subject.

The topic last for just over two bars and ends on the dominant but without modulating. The topic rises from the tonic and then with a leap to the sixth breaks off and turns back to the fifth. It is essential to note that on the sixth the b flat a staccato signal appears, it seems on the unique autographed copy of the fugue. Bach additionally carries the staccato signal throughout the entire fugue. This shows he perceived the topic to be aggressive and powerful. There are ten entries of the subject after it is first performed, but only one is bar 28 is exactly like the opening. In many cases the topic is performed but the third is sharpened or flattened, this happens in bars 17, 18, 34, 39 and 40. This is seen beneath, the subject happens in the bass, the 3rd within the 2nd bar is sharpened, the topic additionally begins in the dominant A major.

The topic unusually in bar 35 begins on F sharp, the main note to G minor, that is very distant form the original key. This is seen under in the soprano half.

There are five entries of the subject which may be inverted and they are in various positions of the dimensions.

In this instance of an inverted topic the middle voice begins on E, which because the supertonic of D minor, it has a falling 5th as an alternative of a falling sixth in the second bar. In bar 29 the bass starts on an A because the dominant in D minor, which turns into the supertonic in G minor and utilizing a falling fifth as within the example above from bar 14. The countersubject never reappears in its authentic kind. Its presence is felt all via the fugue, regardless of the quantity of stretto used. The counter-subject is a semiquaver determine and it appears fourteen occasions within the fugue.

A frequent alteration made by Bach to the countersubject throughout the fugue is that solely half of the countersubject is played. This occurs twelve out of the fourteen times the countersubject seems. An instance is proven right here in bar 17. The soprano has the second half of the counterpoint. The first half was hinted at within the bar earlier, however not continued. In bars 6-7 the countersubject is transferred between the soprano and the middle voice. This is the one instance of this occurring in this fugue.

There are 4 main episodes on this fugue. The first three episodes contain and inverted topic. Episode one from bars 10-13 has the upper voice repeat the tip of the topic, in a falling sequence. The bass repeats the tip of the counter-subject and in bar 12 the center voice hints at the inverted topic.

In episode two from bars 25-27 the soprano makes a rising sequence contrary to episode one. The third episode seems from bars 21-25 and comes out of the earlier entry and is a free inter-change of the first episode. The last episode is from bars 36-39 developed from the changed ending of the earlier soprano entry. In a rising sequence the soprano repeats the determine of the first bar of the counter-subject, whereas the lower voice in thirds repeats the first half of the inverted subject.

Bach is generous in his use of stretto; there are six examples of it on this fugue. There are 4 cases of stretto with two voices. In bar 17 the bass is adopted by the middle voice in bar 18, with a growth in the course of the cadence. In bars 21-25 there are solely two voices however they provide three entries, the bass in bar 21, the soprano in bar 22 and the bass once more in bar 23. This is seen in the instance under.

In bars 34 and 35 there’s once more a two-part stretto and again in bars 39-42 there’s a two-part stretto that’s the similar as bars 17-20 but now within the tonic key, with an extension towards the final cadence. There are then two examples of stretto with three voices. The first showing in bars 13-16, Bach hints at stretto in bars 12 and thirteen but is totally employed in bar 14 with the middle voice entry. The last instance of stretto for all three voices occurs in bars 27-31, with the soprano coming into in bar 27, the middle voice in bar 28 and the bass in bar 29.

To round off the fugue a coda is employed within the last two bars of the piece. The coda makes an allusion of the topic; it’s direct and inverted, with thirds added. These are heard on a tonic pedal.


The fugue in d minor was one of the earlier fugues written by Bach during his time at Cothen. Many fugual gadgets are included on this fugue together with stretto, episodes, a countersubject and three major voices. These have been all closely influenced by different composers of the time corresponding to Buxtehude and Bureister. The major thought of the Well Tempered Clavier was taken from J.C.F. Fischer’s Ariadne musical. Dispite this The Well Tempered Clavier is thought to be considered one of Bach most well-known works; it has survived time, and is performed regularly at present by keyboard college students.


  1. Malcolm Boyd, Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach (Oxford university Press 1999)
  2. Joseph Groocock, Fugal Composition, A Guide to the Study of Bach’s ‘48’ (Dorone Groocock 2003)
  3. Hermann Keller, The well-tempered clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach (Allen & Unwin 1976)
  4. Ralph Kirkpatrick, Interpreting Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (Yale University Press 1984)
  5. David Schulenberg, Music of the baroque (Oxford University Press 2008)

  1. Malcolm Boyd, Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach (Oxford university Press 1999) p.181
  2. Boyd, Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach (Oxford college Press 1999) pp.181-182
  3. Hermann Keller, The well-tempered clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach (Allen & Unwin 1976) p. 31
  4. Boyd, Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach (Oxford college Press 1999) p.515
  5. Ralph Kirkpatrick, Interpreting Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (Yale University Press 1984) p.6
  6. Daniel Shannahan Lecture of Tuesday 24th of February
  7. Boyd, Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach (Oxford college Press 1999) p.181
  8. Hermann Keller, The well-tempered clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach (Allen & Unwin 1976) p.67
  9. Joseph Groocock, Fugal Composition, A Guide to the Study of Bach’s ‘48’ (Dorone Groocock 2003) p. 63
  10. Hermann Keller, The well-tempered clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach (Allen & Unwin 1976) p.69
  11. J.S. Bach, Prelude and fugue no.6 in D minor BWV851 Edited by Franz Kroll (Leipzig: Brietkopf & Hartel 1866)

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