The four part fugue “Contapuctus I” is the first of the 14 contrapuncti (contrapuctuses) in “The Art of Fugue” by JS Bach.
Fugue as a compositional procedure is associated with contrapuntal wizardry and braininess. The true heart of the type is, in the hands of the great composers, anything but cerebral. The moving opening chorus of Bach’s Mass in B minor is a fugue, as is the first movement of Beethoven’s Opus 131, String Quartet in C# minor.
The Contrapunctus I is deeply moving with beautiful writing throughout. One moment that is especially moving to me is the false entry of the alto part in measure 48. The soprano entrance comes in the following measure one whole step above the D where it would be since it is in the tonic key of D minor. This creates a momentary dissonance on the downbeat. Of course dissonance on strong beats is applaudably common in much of Bach’s music, but here it is most magical.
If you want to play the alto part with the recording missing that part you have a very hard thing to do. Which is to keep the tempo by yourself until the soprano part comes in in measure 4. I could have kept the click track in until then, but I decided that this challenge would be fun.
-- Roy Sansom
Play-along files synthesized and contributed by Roy Sansom. (Accompaniments are at 4' pitch.)