The Art of Fugue - BWV 1080

violin, four viols and organ
(Autografo Mus. Ms. Bach P 200)


The testament-masterpiece of Johann Sebastian Bach, which occupied him in the last decade before his death, is here proposed in a new and evocative version for violin, viols, violone and organ. Contrary to the paradigm followed so far, we have chosen the lectio of the autograph and not that of the first printed edition, given that with the latter Bach had little or nothing to do, as shown by recent research and a more in-depth reading of the sources. 

According to the information provided to us by the obituary of C.P.E. Bach and from the first biography of Bach by J.N. Forkel, we know that Bach had studied Frescobaldi's polyphonic keyboard works, as well as those of his immediately preceding countrymen (Buxtehude, Reincken, Pachelbel) and those of "some ancient good French". And it is precisely from one of the latter that the source for the choice of staff of our interpretation arrives. François Roberday publishes in 1660 "
Fugues et Caprices a quatre parties" destined to the organ, but published in score on four lines; as it was customary widespread for contrapuntal works written for the keyboard “par ce que les Parties estant toutes ensemble, et neanmoins distinguées les unes des autres, on peut bien plus facilement les examiner chaqu’une en particulier et voir le rapport qu’elles ont toutes entre-elles”, and later “il y à encore cette avantage que si on veut joüer ces Pieces de Musique sur des Violles ou autre semblables Intruments, chacun y trouvera sa Partie destachée des autres”.

From here the performance of the Art of Fugue with Viols and organ (alternately, alone, and in ensembles, with combinations designed to emphasize the great variety of thematic material) becomes an example of a consolidated tradition. The Consort (here in the version with violin, more widespread in the Germanic area), which since the sixteenth century was the instrument par excellence capable of making the most complex polyphonies transparent, and which had lived in England a century before its maximum development, left in those years the scene with the most modern instrumental flatteries of the roboante and virtuous baroque orchestra. We like to think that the execution of a “scientific” work (Bach was an active member of the correspondence Society of Musical Sciences, founded by Lorenz Mizler in 1738) as The Art of Fugue, of an intimate nature, aimed at the recapitulation of a glorious contrapuntal and yet highly modern past, requires, then as now, the magic of a lost sound.

the Accademia Strumentale Italiana, Summer 2019


 (autografo Mus. Ms. Bach P 200)
1. Fuga rectus [Contrapunctus 1]
2. Fuga
inversus [Contrapunctus 3]

3. Fuga
plagalis [Contrapunctus 2]
4. Controfuga
[Contrapunctus 5]
5. Fuga a un controsoggetto obbligato (alla Duodecima)
[Contrapunctus 9.a 4]
6. Fuga a due controsoggetti obbligati (alla Decima)
[Contrapunctus 10 a 4]

7. Fuga
mensuralis a due controsoggetti obbligati
[Contrapunctus 6 a 4 in Stylo Francese]
8. Fuga mensuralis a tre controsoggetti obbligati
[Contrapunctus 7.a 4 per Augment et Diminut:]

9. Canon in Hypodiapason [Canon alla Ottava]

10. Fuga à 3 soggetti
[Contrapunctus 8 a 3]
11. Fuga à 4 soggetti [Contrapunctus 11 a 4]

12. Canon per Augmentationem Contrario Motu

13a. Fuga a specchio (contrapunto simplici)
[Contrapunctus 12 rectus]
13b. Fuga a specchio (contrapunto simplici) inversus
[Contrapunctus 12 inversus]

14a. Fuga a specchio (contrapunto duplici) rectus
[Contrapunctus [13] a 3 rectus]
 14b. Fuga a specchio (contrapunto duplici) inversus
[Contrapunctus [13] a 3 inversus]


15. Fuga a 3 Soggetti B.A.C.H. (incompleto)
[Contrapunctus 18]

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.