Two Fugues on B.A.C.H. (Op. 60, Nos. 3 and 5)
Late in his career, Schumann took fugues very seriously, especially the difficult task of working and reworking rigid forms until they were freely expressive character pieces. His Six Fugues on the Name BACH, Op. 60, stands today as the only composition he wrote for organ – and he qualified this by stating that these fugues could also be performed on the experimental pedal piano of his day.
Because our B-flat is the German B and our B is the German H, Bach could use musical tones to symbolically sign his name to his final and unfinished work, The Art of the Fugue. Ever since, composers feel inspired – and dared! – to use the brief and otherwise starkly chromatic eponym as musical material.
The third of Schumann’s fugues, slow and highly meditative, is in G minor and has been described as a “ricercar,” which in this sense is a sort of variation form. The fifth of these fugues takes on the character of a tarantella, although it has also been called a “scherzo.”