Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B-flat Minor, BWV 891: Stratospheric Stretto

Epic is a word that could describe Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No. 22 in B-flat Minor, BWV 891.

The companion pieces come near the end of Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier, the manuscript of which is dated between 1739 and 1742 in the final years of the composer’s life. From the Prelude’s opening bars, a dense contrapuntal conversation unfolds. At moments, the imitative voices resemble a fugue. The real fugue arrives with a somber, halting subject which, as the other voices enter, becomes shrouded in chromaticism and punctuated by edgy dissonances. Set in 3/2 time, this grand four-voice double fugue is the longest in the collection. It is a magnificent example of stretto, a fugal technique in which imitating voices enter in such close succession that they “answer” before the subject has completed. These glorious canonic “interruptions” create an ever-rising intensity. In the climax, the subject appears in mirror inversion and is doubled by exultant thirds and sixths.

The German harpsichordist, Christine Schornsheim, recorded the completed second book of the Well-Tempered Clavier as part of the Netherlands Bach Society’s All of Bach initiative. Many of the recordings were filmed in unlikely settings around the Dutch city of Utrecht in celebration of the city’s 900th anniversary. Appropriately, this performance from March 15, 2022 was recorded at the Dom Church, which, with its 367 foot tower, dominates the Utrecht skyline.


  • J.S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Christine Schornsheim Amazon

Featured Image: the Dom Tower in Utrecht, Netherlands, James Newton Photographs

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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