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<<  -- 3 --  Wilfrid Mellers    SECOND SIGHT


If the C minor is the gravest, the F sharp minor toccata is the most profound -- as is appropriate to a key which, as previously noted, was considered as a dominantly exalted version of 'suffering' B minor, itself the complement and polar opposite of 'glorious' D major. Again, the initial toccata-flourishes are moderately paced and mostly unisonal, though they accumulate harmonic punch before being wrenched from a resolutory F sharp major triad to a triad of G sharp major that proves to be a dominant to C sharp minor. (In this performance the player slightly enfeebles this effect by improvising a brief connecting cadenza). The succeeding Adagio, in a solemn 3/2 pulse, unfolds a chromatically drooping theme over a rising bass, weirdly modulating, and gathering 'pathetick' ornamentation on the way. Basically in three parts, the music acquires a fourth in the more richly ornamented sections: until the arioso is capped, and perhaps annealed, in a three-voiced fugue on a falling scale in quavers, with a countersubject in semiquavers. The emotional effect of this double-fugue is more quizzical, even wistfully whimsical, than tragic; and the querulousness leads to an extraordinary moderato section in which, without any violent gestures, the music proves mysteriously subversive in meandering through no fewer than seven sequential modulations. But when this immoderate moderato ends on a tierce de Picardie, it finds an unequivocally tragic resolution in an andante fugue in four closely-wrought parts, based on a 'weeping' chromatic scale, with the drooping motifs 'crying' across the beats. This is surely among the most sublime fugal movements Bach ever wrote, anticipating even the grandeur of the Crucifixus in the B minor Mass, and the opening chorus of the cantata Weinen klagen. Even when, for the coda, the fugue re-embraces toccata figuration, the music evades overt display, remaining gravely lucid, to end with a thematic chromatic descent over a tonic pedal, melting into an (almost) tranquil tierce de Picardie.

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Copyright © 19 August 2001 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK






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