Fugue in A minor
BWV 959 performed by Diego Ares
in Utrecht, The Netherlands
Behind the music
A Gothic Bach
Just enjoy the mysterious shudders, without thinking too much.
This fugue reminds harpsichordist Diego Ares of the horror sitcom The Munsters from the 1960’s. The piece is also reminiscent of the TV series The Addams family from those years, in which the harpsichord features prominently in the credits. The makers apparently found the sound of the instrument as creepy and kooky, and as mysterious and spooky as the family itself. And Ares’ comparison of this Fugue in A minor to Bach’s great Toccata and fugue in D minor, BWV 565 is no coincidence either, as that work is often used as the soundtrack in horror films. In short, like the famous Toccata and fugue in D minor, this Fugue in A minor is also a Gothic Bach.
This idea goes surprisingly far back. In 1745, Johann Adolf Scheibe criticised the “Gothic expositions” by composers who composed “unfathomably and unnaturally” and with many basso continuo figures, writing “are these not real Goths of music?” At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the German music critic E.T.A. Hoffmann was still talking of moments of “inner horror” and of “mysterious shudders” and “terrors” evoked by “mystical counterpoint rules” and numerical relationships – especially in the case of the “great Sebastian Bach”!
Around 1900, the connection changed. Although Bach remained Gothic, this made him very Germanic. As in the great German mediaeval cathedrals, people recognised profundity, mystery and a Germanic sense of sober essence. This connection was repeated endlessly. In 1925, for example, a music journal wrote that the Gothic cathedral was finally filled with the sound of Bach’s music: “And behold – the Gothic cathedral acquires its corresponding context through Bach. It does not remain empty, does not remain in ruins, as the official German history books kept proclaiming”.
As Ares says, throw intellect out of the door for a moment and just enjoy the mysterious shudders.
- Fugue in A minor
- harpsichord works
- Release date
- 9 January 2020
- Recording date
- 1 October 2018
- Diego Ares
- Titus Crijnen (1992) after Johannes Ruckers, 1638
- Director and interview
- Jan Van den Bossche
- Music recording, edit and mix
- Guido Tichelman
- Gijs Besseling
- Jessie Verbrugh
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