Art of Fugue (AOF) represents Bach’s last great work. Having initiated its printing he died before it went to press. Along with the posthumous publication a compelling, romantic mythology grew up around AOF: the aged, suffering, blind master, unable to finish the last fugue, dictates a final chorale on his deathbed and then passes into eternity. Indeed, with this scenario in mind, hearing the last monumental fugue trail off into silence, and then the ‘deathbed’ chorale Before Thy Throne I Stand, can be profoundly moving. The music itself intertwined with this story of how it came about is irresistible. But it almost certainly did not happen this way. Research by several eminent Bach scholars including Christoph Wolff concludes that the final, ‘unfinished’ fugue was surely finished or at least sketched; the ‘deathbed’ chorale originated years before Bach’s death; and the editors of the first edition badly mishandled the task. Our recording presents AOF in light of this research. We bring no particular innovation to the music itself for we stand on the shoulders of great artists and scholars who precede us. But this is the first widely available trombone recording of AOF, whose sound perhaps introduces a new profundity and nobility to this great music.
The four canons and two fugues arranged for keyboards were transcribed by Mike Hall. All other tracks were transcribed by Ralph Sauer, whose edition is published in four volumes by Cherry Classics Music. As a graduate student, Ralph Sauer’s fantastic recording Ralph Sauer, Trombone, Plays Handel, Telemann, Haydn, Serocki, Larsson & Sulek, (Crystal CD380) inspired me to perform early music on modern trombones. Recording his transcription of AOF is an honor. Mr. Sauer lowered the pitch center from D to C providing a more playable range for trombones. And even though the voices are arranged into a more compact tessitura to suit trombones, Mr. Sauer has taken care to maintain the integrity of Bach’s counterpoint. While much of the ornamentation, tempi, articulation and phrasing heard in this recording are mine, Mr. Sauer’s transcription is exquisitely edited for live performance rendering it approachable by trombone ensembles from intermediate to professional. His careful preparation of this edition represents a labor of love, for which we are grateful. Mike Hall
The fugues are performed on the following instruments in this stereo configuration:
[left] [mid-left] [mid-right] [right]
Conn 36h Bach 36 Bach 42K Conn 62HCL
alto trombone tenor trombone tenor trombone bass trombone
Both voices in Canon alla Ottava are performed on Bach 42K tenor trombone.
Both voices in Canon alla Decima are performed on Conn 36h alto trombone.
Canon alla Duodecima is performed on Conn 36h alto trombone and Conn 62HCL bass trombone.
Canon per Augmentationem is performed on Bach 42K tenor trombone and Conn 62HCL bass trombone.
MIKE HALL teaches trombone/euphonium and brass chamber music at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, and serves as Literature Reviews Editor for the International Trombone Association Journal. He previously served on the faculties of the University of Kansas and Eastern Michigan University. Dr. Hall has performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and China performing a range of styles and literature with symphony orchestras, wind and chamber ensembles and as featured soloist. He also has an extensive background in commercial music backing entertainers, playing in large and small group jazz settings, and performing in theater and studio recording ensembles. His extensive study of Baroque performance practice as applied to low brass instruments has led to three previous solo recordings: Arcangelo Corelli Solo Chamber Sonatas, Opus 5; J.S. Bach: The Gamba Sonatas and Benedetto Marcello Solo Sonatas, Opus 1. Mike Hall is a C.G. Conn and Selmer Bach performing artist.