Raise your hand if you know what a fugue is! Today we’re going to learn all about fugues and the master composer of them in this 15-Minute Music Lesson on Bach and the Fugue.
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Who was J. S. Bach?
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) composed music that is synonymous with high Baroque style. In fact, the end of the Baroque period (1600-1750) is marked by Bach’s death.
J. S. Bach grew up in a musical family in Germany. Many in his family were church organists or town musicians. Bach had 20 children, 9 of whom survived him. Four of his children became well-known composers.
During his earliest years (1703-1717), Bach mostly wrote organ works since he was employed as an organist.
One of Bach’s best musical positions was as court conductor for the prince of Cöthen.
In 1723, Bach became director of music at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig and was responsible for the music of four main churches in that city.
Bach was a religious man. At the beginning of each of his sacred pieces he wrote J.J. which stands for Jesu Juva (Jesus help), and at the end of those pieces wrote S.D.G. for Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone the glory).
Bach wrote in every Baroque musical genre except for opera. One of the musical forms he excelled in was the fugue.
“In the course of time the distance between time diminishes. Beethoven, for instance did not need to study all that Mozart studied–Mozart, not all that Handel–Handel, not all that Palestrina–because these had already absorbed the knowledge of their predecessors. But there is one source which inexhaustibly provides new ideas–Johann Sebastian Bach.” ~Robert Schumann
What is a Fugue?
Watch this video to learn what a fugue is:
J.S. Bach wrote so much music, we will not be listening to all of it, but here is a sampling of his fugues. Challenge yourself to listen for the main melody and raise your hand every time it enters (in a different key or with different instruments).
Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543:
To learn more about Bach, see the online course Music Appreciation: Middle Ages Thru Classical Era
The Well-Tempered Clavier (1722) is a collection of preludes and fugues for keyboard instruments, 24 in all (1 for each major and minor key). Bach wrote on the title page that The Well-Tempered Clavier was “for the profit and use of musical youth desiring instruction, and especially for the pastime of those who are already skilled in this study.”
Listen to Prelude and Fugue in C Minor from Book 1. The fugue section is from 1:30-3:00.
Here is a vocal jazz version of Prelude and Fugue in C Minor from the Swingle Singers on their Bach’s Greatest Hits album.
Free Printable Pack for the 15-Minute Music Lesson on Bach and the Fugue
Download a free printable pack called the Study A Composer Printable Pack to use with your 15-Minute Music Lesson on Bach and the Fugue.
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Extend Your Learning with Maestro Classics!
Maestro Classics has a great CD (or MP3 download) called Bach and the Pipe Organ.
For a limited time, if you purchase it, you’ll get the companion CD (or download) of just the music from Bach and the Pipe Organ for FREE!
No coupon necessary.
What’s included with Bach and the Pipe Organ?
- You’ll love this musical biography because it’s narrated with musical examples throughout.
- The CD features some of Bach’s greatest hits, many of which were composed for the organ.
- There are also additional educational tracks on the history of the organ, Bach’s music after he died, an a capella version of Bach’s Little Fugue BWV 578, and a sing-along with words set to his Little Fugue.