"Die Kunst der Fuge" is a harpsichord work consisting of 14 fugues placed in
order of increasing complexity; four canons built on the same motto theme
as the 14 fugues, and similarly placed in order of increasing complexity, form a
sort of coda to the whole. This structure is restored in the present edition. Performers
may wish to note that in Bach’s autograph Ms fugues 1 and 3 are juxtaposed,
as are fugues 8 and 11.
The idea for such a work may have been slowly germinating all Bach’s life,
ever since 1705 when he went “to Lόbeck, in order to comprehend one
thing and another about his art” as he himself put it (Protokoll des Konsistoriums,
Arnstadt, 21. 2. 1706); the mirror fugues, at least, are strikingly comparable
to Buxtehude’s two four-part movements in d minor (each entitled “Contrapunctus”
and each with a mirror-like “evolutio”), published in his "Fried und freudenreiche Hinfarth" (1674).
"Die Kunst der Fuge" was prepared for the engraver (Johann Heinrich Schόbler,
younger brother of Johann Georg Schόbler who had engraved the six
“Schόbler” organ chorales) during the last year or so of Bach’s life; it was
published early in 1751, about twelve months after the composer’s death and
reissued in 1752.
Canons in Hypodiapason, alla Decima, alla Duodecima, in Hypodiatessaron BWV 1080
Appendix: Contrapunctus XIII in the version for two Harpsichords BWV 1080