The Art of Fugue: Gould Plays Bach

Between 1979 and 1981, the Cana­di­an pianist Glenn Gould col­lab­o­rat­ed on a series of doc­u­men­tary films with the French vio­lin­ist, writer and film­mak­er Bruno Man­sain­geon. In the scenes pre­sent­ed here, Gould plays a pair of move­ments from Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach’s The Art of Fugue.

Gould was near­ing the end of his life when he gave these per­for­mances. He died of a stroke on Octo­ber 4, 1982, only a few days after his 50th birth­day. Sim­i­lar­ly, The Art of Fugue was one of Bach’s final projects. He worked on it over the last decade of his life, and the unfin­ished man­u­script was pub­lished after his death, per­haps also from a stroke, in 1750 at the age of 65.

The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080, is made up of 14 fugues and 4 canons, each explor­ing the con­tra­pun­tal pos­si­bil­i­ties of a sin­gle musi­cal sub­ject. Gould plays “Con­tra­punc­tus I” in the video above. Below, he plays “Con­tra­punc­tus IV.”

via @SteveSilberman

Relat­ed con­tent:

Glenn Gould Explains the Genius of Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach (1962)

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visu­al­ized on a Möbius Strip

A Big Bach Down­load: The Com­plete Organ Works for Free

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