Contrapunctus I, mm. 17-22 from Die Kunst der Fuge by J.S. Bach.

The 5-6 sequence (in canon) occurs in mm. 17-20, and the lines in the rhythmic reduction show how each “5” in the middle voice becomes a dissonant suspension against each “6” in the upper voice. The reduction on top renders the 5-6 motion into a single voice.

5-6 motion is one of the oldest and simplest contrapuntal devices there is. This particular expression of it, so cunningly wrought, convoluted, and beautiful, is but one vivid illustration of what separated Bach from the contrapuntists of his time, as well as those who followed.

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5 Responses to 5-6.

  1. Kenneth Goodenough says:

    Great post Sean! Coincidentally, I just received my ticket to see a full performance of the Art of Fugue performed on organ next Thursday, during the Bach festival.


  2. Sean says:

    How was the performance of Die Kunst der Fuge? Do you happen to know the age of the organ, and what system it’s tuned in?


    • Kenneth Goodenough says:

      To put it short, it was an amazing evening! Especially the ending of the ‘finished’ Contrapunctus 14 was literally overwhelming, though I don’t know who wrote the end. Leo van Doeselaar played on the ‘Bach-organ’ in the local church in Dordrecht. Though I don’t have perfect pitch, it sounded like A=415 Hz. On this site (and if you’re willing to flex your Dutch skills), you can find more info on the organ: http://www.bachorgel.nl/index.html
      Due to how the site is written I can’t link you directly to the info page, so you’ll have to scroll down to the link ‘barokorgel’ found at the end of ‘Doelstelling Stichting Bach-Orgel Grote kerk Dordrecht’, and then the link ‘hier’ at the bottom of the screen. Otherwise I wouldn’t mind mailing you a translated text-only version. I’m not sure on the temperament, since on the site they mention that it was based on the Freiberg organ, yet Bach didn’t like the meantone temperament. I must say though that the lower register wasn’t as audible as I hoped.

      Do you have any recommendations on full recordings of Die Kunst der Fuge on organ, preferably with a ‘finished’ Contrapunctus 14?

      PS: interesting music you have written down in the pictures of your latest blog post.


      • Sean says:

        Thanks for the links about the organ; I’ll be sure to take a look.

        Of the many recordings I have of Die Kunst der Fuge, very few are on organ. This includes Glenn Gould’s recording of the first 9 fugues, but ironically that’s not one I would recommend (though Contrapunctus IX is really nice). One of my favorite recordings is the one from Bernard Labadie et Les Violons du Roy. Some of the fugues have an added continuo part, which on its face I thought would be a bad idea. But it’s derived from the score and it doesn’t distract (or at least, I’m very used to it now). The performances are very austere, clean, clear, and powerful; fugues 1, 4, 5, 9, and 14 are especially nice, but these are all just matters of taste. They include a completion for Contrapunctus XIV, which is an elaboration of one composed by Davitt Moroney (but I’m not a fan of completions, to be honest). Moroney’s completion can be found in the G. Henle Verlag edition of Die Kunst der Fuge.


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