Categories
Best Classical Music Musical Analysis

Bach – Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV 543 with sheet music (piano solo arr.)

Search Post by Categories

Bach – Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV 543 with sheet music (piano solo arr.)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) wrote many organ works during
the years at Weimar as court organist and chamber musician to Duke
Wilhelm Ernst. The masterpieces from this period (1707-18) show the
great influence of the North German school. From this period comes a
great number of virtuosic toccatas and fantasies which employ long
pedal solos, figurations, massive chords, pedal points and improvisational sections.

The occurrence of these characteristics provides evidence that the A-minor prelude originated in this period. The fugue was probably reworked in the Leipzig period.

It has little in common with the prelude but does have characteristics of Bach’s earlier fugues. Each section is long, and there :s much use of a single motive developed in many sequences.

The fugue subject, according to Keller, shows its similarity to
a fugue by Pachelbel and the theme of “Concerto No. 811 by Corelli that
Bach transcribed for the harpsichord. In all probability, the main
derivation seems to be from Bach’s own “Fugue in A minor” for harpsichord.

Example 8. Bach’s Fugue in A Minor for Harpsichord, BWV 944.

bach prelude fugue sheet music score download partitura partition spartiti

Differences between the harpsichord work and the organ work are quite evident. The harpsichord work is longer with expanded episodes and a greater wealth of harmonies, but the organ fugue contains a more complex contrapuntal texture. The subject of the harpsichord work had to be altered to fit the pedals, and the organ fugue subject itself is modified in the pedal entries.

Analysis

The prelude is in a large sectional North German style, as previously mentioned. It contains several rhapsodic passages and is improvisatory in nature. The first section (measures 1-25) is monophonic in a toccata style that moves rhythmically in sixteenth notes alternating with triplet passages. The establishment of the A-minor tonality is achieved in the opening outline of an A-minor arpeggio that moves chromatically through diminished seventh chords to alternate with major and minor triads.

Example 9. Prelude in A Minor, BWV 543, ms. 1-2.

bach sheet music

The change of rhythmic figuration from sixteenths to triplets lasts
only two measures (5-6), but returns three measures later with the entrance of a tonic pedal point. Within this triplet figuration, a quarter note motive of neighbor tones accompanies the ascending and descending motion. A flourish of activity in ascending thirty-second note scales drives towards the chordal ‘Buxtehude shake’ and pedal arpeggio, ending the section with a cadence on the dominant.

The second section of the piece begins with a long pedal cadenza
that restates the opening arpeggiated triads. The manuals use a half-step motive to embellish the D-minor chord that unfolds in four-voice texture
before continuing in two voices. The section concludes with another
rhythmically active thirty-second note passage developing the hall-step
motive. It cadences in G-major.

bach prelude fugue sheet music score download partitura partition spartiti

Three-part texture predominates in the third section of the piece
(measures 36-47). Motivic use of arpeggiation in parallel thirds and
sixths alternate with chordal arpeggiation of the pedal. The section begins
in C-major and concludes in A-minor.

The last section is a long cadential extension that involves alternation of I-IV-V. A neighboring-tone motive in sixteenth notes is developed extensively in a four-part texture, and it concludes in an exciting climax. The final tonic cadence uses a Picardy third.

The fugue has an unmistakably simple plan and is very well constructed. A long exposition is followed by an episode in D-minor and another long section of middle entries at different pitch levels that is interspersed with several short episodes. An episode and final statement of the subject in the tonic precedes the coda. The coda contains a brilliant pedal cadenza and a final flourish of arpeggios and scales based on secondary diminished chords before the final cadence.

The fugue subject is in compound (6/8) meter and consists of chordal outlines. The subject is constructed with descending sequences of a sixteenth- note motive.

Example 10. Fugue subject, ms. 1-5.

bach prelude fugue sheet music score download partitura partition spartiti

The subject is five measures long, and uses a real answer. The order of voice entries in the exposition (measures 1-30) are: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. The countersubject employs a descending five-note scale motive that sequences several times.

The subject is five measures long, and uses a real answer. The order of voice entries in the exposition (measures 1-30) are: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. The countersubject employs a descending five-note scale motive that sequences several times.

An episodic passage (measures 31-44) develops motives from both the countersubject and subject. The episode begins in D-minor in a three­-voice texture and returns to A-minor for the final statement of the subject in the soprano (measure 44).

The exposition cadences in the dominant, and leads to a section using the subject in sequence, alternating with short episodic passages. This section begins in E-minor with a statement of the subject embellished in the tenor. Sequential development of new material accompanied the subject. Subsequent entrances are found in the alto, soprano, and alto, respectively.

The entrances of the voices occur in related keys which are interrupted by short episodes that modulate. The first alto entrance is in C, and there follows a short interlude of sequences based on the second part of the subject. The soprano entrance in G-major and the alto entrance in D-minor completes the statements of the voices.

A sequential treatment of the subject in a two-voice texture modulates from G-minor to A-minor (measure 95). Stretto between the soprano and bass precedes the true entrance of the subject in the tenor. A long episode in A-minor uses the subject and countersubject, developed by sequences and inversion. A statement of the subject is found in the tenor, in E-minor (measure 115) to mirror the original key of this long development section.

An episode of eleven measures precedes the entrance of the subject for the final time (measure 131). The last tonic statement is in the tenor and moves directly to a dominant pedal point against sequential collnterpoint.

The fugue climaxes with a pedal cadenza based on motives from the subject and arpeggios. The second half of the cadenza shifts to the manuals to increase in rhythmic activity with thirty-second notes. The return to a single-line toccata style outlines D#dim7 and G#dim7 chords over a pedal E before the final cadence.

Performance practice of the piece demands use of several plenums,
or principal choruses, to display the prelude and fugue in dynamic levels that contrast the introduction of new material. Registration should conform to the Baroque standards of clarity of line and pureness of sound especially important for the independent lines of the fugue.

Rhythm is an important performance consideration in this piece. The rhythmic drive of the fugue develops from the natural feel of the compound meter which tends to stress the beat.

Download the best classical sheet music from our Library.