Kimberly Marshall Bach’s 325th birthday. Four recordings of Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue) were released in time for the 325th anniversary of Bach’s birth.
This compendium of fourteen fugues and four canons was the focus of Bach’s last months, during which he prepared for its publication, which ultimately occurred posthumously, in 1751. The Art of Fugue is often regarded as Bach’s musical testament, codifying a lifetime of contrapuntal practice; his musical signature—B (B ), A, C, H (B )—appears very prominently in the final triple fugue that he apparently did not live to complete. The gifted Swedish organist Bengt Tribukait presents his interpretation of Die Kunst der Fuge (Musica Rediviva mrsacd-017, rec 2008, 78) on the 1728 Cahman organ in Leufsta Bruk. The marriage of instrument and organist is perfect for this repertory. Tribukait renders Bach’s polyphony cleanly, shaping the lines through his artful timing and sensitive articulation. He employs the full manual chorus and trumpet for the stately Contrapunctus VI ‘in French Style’, achieving a stately flow that underpins the counterpoint. When he adopts smaller combinations or individual timbres, such as the Rückpositiv Gedackt 8 (Contrapunctus X) or the manual Quintadena 16 (Contrapunctus XIX), he is able to preserve the forward rhythmic motion through his subtleties of touch and agogic accents. He ingeniously brings out some subject entries in the three-voice mirror fugues of Contrapuncti XII and XIII using the pedal Trumpet 4. A similar change halfway through Contapunctus XVII brings new interest to the left-hand line with the colorful Vox humana. Tribukait makes full use of the pipe speech and winding of the organ to create a vibrant performance. This is clearly music that he feels very keenly and which he has spent many hours contemplating. His programme notes include his own musings about possible heaven/hell symbolism in Contrapuncti X and XI. Perhaps speculations such as these help to infuse Bengt Tribukait’s playing with such spirit.