Notes and Editorial Reviews
Bach's Die Kunst der Fugue (The Art of the Fugue), BWV 1080, which he apparently died while working on, is most often played as a keyboard piece. But it is written in open score, with no indication of instrumental forces, and it has been essayed by many diverse ensembles. Clearly Bach did not write it for viol consort, but as an investigation of the abstract work this version works better than many of the other ensemble readings. It shines in comparison to the various string quartet versions, where the modern strings inevitably introduce accents and phrase shapes that are foreign to the pure polyphonic conception of the work. The organ and the recorder were thought in the 17th century to be timbrally similar (and someone should try an
all-recorder version). The curiously named French viol consort Sit Fast (the name comes from the title of a piece by Tye) approaches a similar conception: it quite carefully strips away the individuality of each player in favor of the polyphony, and the more neutral articulation of the viols aids in this endeavor. You might ask what the point is when you can do that more easily on an organ, but the evidence of The Art of the Fugue as a keyboard work is less than definite, and the viols somehow fit the serious, antique nature of the work. In short, there's an X factor working in favor of this odd recording, intensified by the sound environment of the Port-Royal-des-Champs abbey near Paris and even by some unusual album graphics.
-- James Manheim, All Music Guide
Works on This Recording
The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Written: circa 1745-1750; Leipzig, Germany
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