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Re: Your personal...

BONG (Juozas Rimas) wrote:

>Well, your choices are all great but what I failed to put clearly when
>starting this thread is that I wanted to know which Bach's works you liked
>best. I stressed Gould's performance just because I can accept very few
>other performers of the composer. So to put the question in slightly
>way: which of Bach's pieces for solo clavier are real masterpieces to your
>For example, from all the partitas Nr. 6 and especially its Toccata seems
>be the most prominent. Same with the first contrapunct in the Art of Fugue.
>The fourth sinfonie arouses deepest feeling in me. And so on...

My votes for the most satisfying Bach keyboard pieces:

- Art of Fugue, all of it; but especially fond of #11, #8, #7, #5, #1, and
the three-voiced mirror fugues

- Partitas, especially #6

- English suites, especially #2-5

- Keyboard transcription (d minor) of the violin solo sonata in A minor

- Some of the WTC, especially Eb minor and Bb minor from Book 1, and F minor
from both books

- Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 894 (the one that Bach reworked later as
the Triple Concerto)

- Suite in E minor, BWV 996 (also exists in A minor)

- B minor "Ouverture" or partita

- The Inventions and Sinfonias, marvelous models of composition just as Bach
said they are

- Goldberg Variations

- The two keyboard ricercars from the Musical Offering (more satisfying to
play than to listen to)

- The Fantasia in C minor, BWV 906 (Bach writing in Scarlatti's style)

These opinions are from the perspective of playing the pieces on harpsichord
or clavichord, and from studying them from a compositional point of view.
Bach's music is participatory; the mental and physical challenges are so
rewarding when they are overcome!  I'd probably have a different list if
assessing the pieces only as a listener.

And it's awfully hard to exclude the chamber works and the organ works from
such a list.  Many of those would have to be up there among the greatest
Bach keyboard pieces, too.


It's worth remembering Bach's own choices, those he published himself at his
own expense: the Partitas, some organ works, the Italian Concerto, the B
minor Ouverture, the Four Duets, and the Goldberg Variations.  (He perhaps
supervised some of the preparatory printing work on the Art of Fugue, too,
though it wasn't issued until after his death.)

It's also worth remembering that the original consumer price of the book of
Partitas was roughly the same cost as purchasing a harpsichord...i.e. VERY
expensive!  Bach selected his very best for such connoisseurs who could
afford it.

Bradley Lehman, bpl@umich.edu