The Art of Fugue
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Contrapunctus no.1 (from: Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080) [3:01]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Adagio and Fugue in C minor, for strings, K 546 [7:01]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856), arr. Paul Angerer
Fugue no.5 (from: Six Fugues on the Name BACH, op.60) [2:19]
Carl REINECKE (1824-1910)
Fughetta Gioiosa (from: Serenade in G minor, op.242) [4:23]
Hanns EISLER (1898-1962)
Fugue (from: Das Vorbild) [3:30]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Prelude and Fugue, for 18 strings, op.29 [10:15]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Fantasia upon one note [2:20]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Bachiana Brasileira no.9, for strings [7:40]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955), arr. Arthur Hoérée
Prelude, Arioso and Fughetta on Bach's Name [6:39]
Erich ZEISL (1905-1959)
Scherzo and Fugue, for strings [10:24]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1924)
Prelude and Fugue, op.85 [10:49]
NFM Wroclaw Chamber Orchestra 'Leopoldinum'/Ernst Kovacic (violin, conductor)
rec. Jan Kaczmarek Concert Hall, Radio Wroclaw, Poland, 27-29 September 2010
CD ACCORD ACD 168-2 [69:21]
This disc by Polish label CD Accord takes the listener on a non-chronological journey along the highways and byways of fugal history. 'The Art of Fugue' once again proves irresistible as a title, but as a musical form at least the fugue offers plenty of diversity and much scope for a composer's imagination. Many of the items in the programme are, to be sure, movements from larger works or arrangements, but the NFM Wroclaw Chamber Orchestra, a subset of the Witold Lutoslawski Philharmonic, has a dark-roasted expressive sound that brings out both the variety and detail in all these pieces. The ensemble styles itself 'Leopoldinum', after Wroclaw University's Leopoldina Hall, or strictly speaking 'LEOPOLDINUM', with total but unexplained capitalisation. Whatever their name, they give an impressive account of these works, considered and confident, under the guidance of Ernst Kovacic, who has a particular expertise conducting chamber orchestras.
There is no better way to set off on the journey than with Bach's first Contrapunctus, his starting-point for the original and greatest Kunst der Fuge, and an hour later Leopoldinum round off with Moszkowski's own impressive Prelude and Fugue op.85. In between, Bach features directly in three separate works, but his spirit unsurprisingly permeates the programme.
The English-Polish-German notes very helpfully guide the listener through the music twice over, once in a section written by conductor Ernst Kovacic entitled "The Art of Fugue", and then again from a slightly different angle by Polish critic Beata Boleslawska-Lewandowska in "The Fugue through the Ages". In both cases the information is well written and well translated, with no more detail than can be understood by a lay audience.
Highlights of the programme include Purcell's fleeting Fantasia, a fugue in spirit rather than form; Mozart's Adagio and Fugue K.546, the first movement of which gives a glimpse of the darker, Romantic music he would have written had he lived, with the fugue itself an almost Bachian masterpiece; Britten's Prelude and Fugue op.18, a polyphonic tour de force that should be heard much more in the concert hall; and the concluding work by Wroclaw-born Moszkowski, a memorable and stirring fusion of styles.
Sound quality is fairly good, though not entirely lossless. The booklet is clean and tidy and slides neatly between two layers of card in the digipak case with the ... unusual ... coloured balls of wool design. Flip open the case, by the way, and there is Kovacic juggling nine of them effortlessly.
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Bach’s spirit unsurprisingly permeates the programme.