“Who’s your favorite composer?” is as tired a question as “Whomever I’m listening to at the moment” is an answer. If pressed, however, and with apologies to Ludwig, Wolfgang, Pyotr, and all the other greats, I would give the nod to Bach. His supreme blending of beauty, logic, and inventiveness has never been surpassed, and in his profound explorations of self-reference, he came as close as anyone to an understanding of Creation.
Below are some of my realizations of Bach’s music, presented as YouTube videos that include the scores along with brief discussions of the work.
Fantasia & Fugue in C Minor, BWV 537
Dating probably from late in Bach’s career, this work begins with a somber fantasia built on two motives, a rising sixth (heard at the outset) and a descending “sighing” idea. This steadily intensifying lament gives way to a splendid fugue that is one of Bach’s relatively few da capo fugues, in an A-B-A form also found in the gigantic Wedge fugue, BWV 548, but here employing two subjects. I’ve always found this fugue almost without peer in the Bach oeuvre for sheer drive, especially in the B section with its grinding passus duriusculus subject and furiously propulsive countersubject. The da capo conclusion has been criticized as perfunctory, and indeed it seems to arrive quickly at the pedal point leading to the final cadence. No matter: it is still a magnificent piece.