It’s time to return to the Netherlands Bach Society for another recently released performance.
Every Friday the organization adds a new high quality video recording to its website as part of its All of Bach initiative. The project will conclude with a complete catalogue of J.S. Bach’s works in time for the Netherlands Bach Society’s centenary in 2022.
Here, the Belgian harpsichordist Kris Verhelst performs Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No. 22 in B-flat minor, BWV 867. This comes near the end of Book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier, published in 1722. Throughout the collection, Bach explores all 24 major and minor keys, each of which comes with its distinct atmosphere. B-flat minor, with its five flats, exudes a darkly-veiled warmth and melancholy.
The prelude is filled with a sense of deep longing. From the opening bars, listen to all of the wrenching, dissonant tension in the harmony. This is followed by a rare five-voice fugue—there are only two in the entire Well-Tempered Clavier. The fugue subject includes a stunning, upward-leaping minor ninth. Listen to the way all of these voices weave together and overlap. In the final moments, the five voices enter into a thrilling hyperstretto in which only one note separates each statement of the fugue subject. The voices seem to pile on top of each other, bringing this sublime, contrapuntal drama to a close.