Polyphonic Setting of Endings in Fugues from “The Well-Tempered Clavier” by Johann Sebastian Bach

Igor Prykhodko


Relevance of the study is determined by outstanding role of J. S. Bach’s clavier fugues in professional musical education.

Main objective of the study is to identify and systematize some techniques of braking and stopping at the final stage of form building in Bach's clavier fugues.

Scientific novelty of the research arises from the study of musical material that had not previously attracted the attention of researchers. Also the problems connected with the final stage of fugue form building have not attracted sufficient attention.

Methodology of the research. The methodological basis of the research is the idea that the text of a musical work implements a variety of communicative functions in relation to the reader / listener. In particular, it gives “signals” about the beginning of a certain stage of form building. To comprehend such “signals”, the method of complex — melodic, harmonic and polyphonic — analysis of musical works is used, as well as certain provisions of the musical rhetoric of the 18th century.

Findings and conclusions. Among the texture shaping techniques that give “signals” about the fugue ending, we highlighted the techniques of texture compaction with the help of additional voices: weighting obligate voices with added notes, delay (“sticking”) of obligate voices, their splitting and the inclusion of new voices carrying a noticeable melodic (thematic) load. The variety in the use of these few techniques leads to the fact that among the fifteen considered examples no two are alike.

We believe that attention to such techniques of texture organization and their communicative functions helps to choose adequate performing means and contributes to a more distinct articulation of the musical fabric.

The use of such techniques is inseparable from form building and is strongly connected both with thematic (polyphonic) work and with harmonic design. Considering these connections we distinguish three types of Bach's clavier fugues completion: free endings (similar to rhetorical conclusio), codes and additions.

The article also describes a method of thematic work, for which the name “resulting counterpoint” is suggested.


added voices; addition; clavier fugue; coda; conclusion; deceleration; form building; setting; thematic work


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ISSN 2522-4190 (print)
ISSN 2522-4204 (online)