A followup to an old post of mine: I was just reading the liner notes to the Davitt Moroney recording of The Art of the Fugue, and it seems that there is good historical evidence that the unfinished fugue was, indeed, intended to be part of the work. Which makes me happy: it would feel wrong to me for as stunning a fugue as that one to not be part of a larger work.
Hmm: I’m used to thinking of the Grosse Fuge as standing on its own, but it was originally the last movement of Beethoven’s Opus 130. Following the above reasoning, should I prefer the fugue in its original setting? That’s the way that the Takacs quartet does it, now that I finally have that CD. (On my third try: Amazon would seem to have gotten a batch of bad disks. Very well-done return policy, though.) I’ll listen to it a bit more when I have a chance.
I like the Moroney recording of The Art of the Fugue a lot more than the aforementioned Leonhardt one, though I’m still looking for further recommendations. The start of the recording is a bit disappointing to me: Moroney articulates notes less frequently than I would, so the relatively simple textures of the early fugues sound a bit plain. (Doubtless many people would think my way of playing it is overwrought; for that matter, maybe I wouldn’t articulate as much when actually playing as I think I might when listening to it.) But by the second disk, all such thoughts have disappeared; by the time I get to the pause in the final fugue as the BACH theme gets introduced, I’m in awe; I’m almost ready to cry when the fugue breaks off; then the canons provide a bit of a breather; and then Moroney ends with the final fugue, this time with a completion that he carried out that is everything that is eminently satisfying. I’ll still take the Gould Well-Tempered Clavier recordings for my ultimate fix, but the best moments of this recording are fully its match.
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