Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Art of the Fugue" at Number 1? Whassup?

Here's a neat story about J.S. Bach's "The Art of the Fugue," one of his most esoteric pieces. It's 14 fugues based on the same theme, likely written as an exercise. I have it on vinyl, played by a 13-piece chamber group. But a new recording by French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, a solo piano version, has shot to the top of the Billboard and iTunes charts. Jan Swafford offers one of the best explanations of what a fugue -- essentially a complicated round -- can be in the hands of someone like Bach, playing the melody upside down, backwards and more. It has links to several audio versions (I can't figure out how to link directly from here or I would) that are worth a listen. Nice to hear the old Swingle Singers version, which I loved on vinyl many moons ago. Bach is incredibly adaptable, sounding pretty darn good on every kind of keyboard, and especially in jazz versions.

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