The Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080The Art of the Fugue is considered to be one of the greatest musical creations everundertaken. A series of fourteen fugues (last of which is not complete) and four canonswhich are all based on the same d minor theme would perhaps seem, at first glance, to be apendantic academic exercise. However, in the hands of a composer such as Bach, themonothematic material is magnified through repetion which creates a sound universe whichis all it´s own.
The work is also shrouded in mystery, as there are no tempo indications in the manuscript,no indications of the instrumentation which Bach intended and no clear indication as to theorder of the movements. An ordering was given to the work after the composer´s death bythe composer´s son, C. P. E. BACH which attempted to underline the pedogogical aspects of the composition (as a sort of a textbook for studying fugues and counterpoint). The orderused in this arrangement respects this ordering as it was given by Bach´s heirs. It wouldseem probable however, that this order was not that intended by Bach.
The name which Bach uses for each fugue of the work " Contrapunctus " is also not usualHowever, in the autograph, the Canons are refered to as simply Canon I etc. Bach wassupervising publication of this work at the end of his life and at the moment of his death, theplates had been made, although they were left unordered. As there are seperate cycles ofsimple fugues (Contrapuncti 1-4), Stretto or Counter fugues (Contrapuncti 5-7) , Double orTriple fugues (Contrapuncti 8-11), Mirror Fugues (Contrapuncti 16-18) and the Final TripleFugue (Contrapunctus 19) that is said by Forkel (an early Biographer of Bach) to be the firstin series that was to end with a fugue with four subjects, each of which was to be inverted, itwould seem from the manuscript sources that the Canons were intended to seperate thesecycles. A possible ordering, which goes from the most simple to the most complex would beas follows :
Contrapuncti 1-4 : Simple FuguesCanon at the Octave (Contrapunctus XII)Contrapuncti 5-7 : Counter or Stretto FuguesCanon at the Tenth (Contrapunctus XIV)Contrapuncti 8-11 :
Double and Triple Fugues (N.B Contrapunctus X Bis, which is a varientof the material used in Contrapunctus X is not found in every edition of this work and may beomitted in performance.)Canon at the 12th (Contrapunctus XIII)Contrapuncti 16-18 :
Mirror FuguesCanon for Augentation in contrary motion (Contrapunctus XV)Contrapunctus 19 Fugue with Three SubjectsIn the end, the ordering of the movements is something which is a personal choice, as thereis no way of knowing for sure what Bach intended.