Fugal form in book I of J.S. Bach's Das wohltemperirte Clavier
Traves, Edward J.
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Most academic discussions of fugue either seek to find a single unifying formal principle for all fugues, or deny the existence of commonly occurring form-types in the vast repertory of fugal compositions. In the absence of any definitive theory of fugal form, fugal analysis tends to concentrate on details of contrapuntal procedure, with considerably less emphasis given to formal aspects. This study will focus on the overall form of the fugues in the first book of Das wohltemperirte Clavier. I have proceeded under the assumption that the form of fugal compositions is articulated in essentially the same manner as holds for other genres, and that these formal structures can be ascertained with minimal reference to the technicalitles of fugal and contrapuntal procedure. By this method, it will be found that most of the fugues of WTC I are relatively simple bipartite or tripartite structures, and that there are many structural similarities between them. My investigation of WTC I reveals that the bipartite fugues outnumber the tripartite fugues by more than three to one, possibly as a result of Bach's extensive experience with the composition of stylized suites and dances between 1715 and 1723. Correspondences between the bipartite fugues and binary dance forms are clearly evident. In view of the considerable number of shared formal characteristics and methods of articulation displayed by the fugues of WTC I, it seems evident that Bach composed them with a clear formal plan in mind and that he often desired an effective delineation of the various formal divisions to aid the listener's perception and understanding of this music.
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