Stephen Gislason arranger and performer on synthesizers.
The Art of the Fugue (Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV1080)is a collection of Johann
Sebastian Bach' last compositions.
Bach was the master of counterpoint and his fugues were showcases of his mastery
of counterpoint. His son, Carl, published the work in 1751, still incomplete. One theme is
introduced in the first fugue and then developed through contrapuntal variations. Much speculation and controversy has
arisen as musicologists analyzed the pieces. The last fugue 14 has been of
special interest as presumably the last music that Bach wrote and because his
hand written score is unfinished at bar 239. His son, Carl, wrote on the score:" At
the point where the composer introduces the name BACH in the
countersubject to this fugue, the composer died."
Glenn Gould recorded his versions of the Fugues (piano and organ) and I have
enjoyed and followed his approach to studio recording -- the essence of which is
creativity and minute attention to detail, In an online review of Gould's
recording, David Bryson stated:" One of the most extraordinary things about Bach
is how popular he manages to be for all his seeming severity. The Art of Fugue
is innocent of the lyricism that was also part of Bach's infinite musical gift,
it makes no compromises with us, but I would say to newcomers to the work that
Gould's accounts, partial as they are, would be the best place to start to know
this unique and towering masterpiece... Gould chose to play the Art of Fugue on
the organ, giving the separate voices, indeed, every note, dynamic equality...
with sound powerful and regal enough to do it justice but with the clipped,
clavichord rhythm that brings out the playful personalities of which these
fugues consist, emphasizing as Gould always does the conversational diversity
and harmony that is the essence of counterpoint."
While both Bach and Gould receive a lot of attention from fans and scholars
with attendant arguments, my approach is (with due reverence) to follow my own
instincts, preferences, and creativity. I wanted to achieve versions of the Art
of the Fugue that are different from previous versions. I have spent countless
developing my arrangements and could issue several albums with quite divergent
interpretations. One melodic theme repeats thru many variations. Four voices
interact in contrapuntal relationships that develop quite differently in each
fugue. I have orchestrated many of the fugues using synthesizer voices that are
both instrumental and also create novel sounds. The basic instruments are grand
piano, electronic pianos, vibraphone, trumpet, oboe, acoustic and electric
basses. Some purely synthesizer sounds are used in a voice or string like manner
for sustaining sounds. I believe I have reached an understanding with Bach and
Gould, that these pieces have an infinite quality that cannot be contained in
any individual's opinion of them. "
Art of the Fugue 4
Art of the Fugue 5
There are different versions of the Art of Fugue, for example:
Part 1: 14 Fugues (Contrapuncti)
Contrapunctus 1 (simple fugue)
Contrapunctus 2 (simple fugue with 'French rhythm')
Contrapunctus 3 (simple inversion fugue)
Contrapunctus 4 (simple inversion fugue with countersubject)
Contrapunctus 5 (stretto fugue)
Contrapunctus 6 ('in stilo francese')
Contrapunctus 7 ('per augmentationem et diminutionem')
Contrapunctus 8 (triple fugue)
Contrapunctus 9 ('alla Duodecima'; double fugue)
Contrapunctus 10 ('alla Decima'; double fugue)
Contrapunctus 11 (triple fugue)
Contrapunctus 12a ('mirror' fugue 1: rectus)
Contrapunctus 12b ('mirror' fugue 1: inversus)
Contrapunctus 13a ('mirror' fugue 2: rectus)
Contrapunctus 13b ('mirror' fugue 2: inversus)
Contrapunctus 14 ('Fuga a 3 Soggetti'; unfinished)
Canons, labeled by interval and technique:
15. Canon alla Ottava: Canon at the Octave. The two imitating voices are
separated by an octave.
16. Canon alla Decima in Contrapunto alla Terza: Canon at the tenth,
counterpoint at the third.
17. Canon alla Duodecima in Contrapunto alla Quinta: Canon at the twelfth,
counterpoint at the fifth.
Persona Music Recordings: Our Music Catalogue includes recorded performances
under the titles Persona Digital, P2500 Band, Em4U, and the Persona Classical Consort.
The focus of Persona Classical is the creation of digital performances of pieces
by J.S. Bach. Other performances include pieces by Mozart, Pachelbel and
Music online is offered to illustrate music history, advance music education and appreciation. The recordings presented online demonstrate Persona
Studio's arranging, recording and mastering techniques. All the recordings are
arrangements and performances completed in house by Stephen Gislason. The music selections and their history
are explained in the book, Sound of Music.
Topics presented at Persona Digital Studio are from the The Sound of Music by