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Canons from the Art of Fugue


Die Kunst der Fuge contains four canons which are among Bach's longest and formally complex. True to the cyclical conception of which they are part, each of the four develops aspects of fugal writing that are difficult to maintain in canon.

While from head to tail a strict canon at the octave, the Canon alla Ottava, for example, contains fugal expositions of the subject at the dominant, again at the dominant in contrary motion, and at the tonic in contrary motion. Invertible counterpoint at the 10th and 12th characterize the canons alla Decima and Duodecima, respectively, while the former contains a meandering diminution of the subject in its coda. The Canon per Augmentationem in contrario Motu continues its invertible counterpoint (at the 8va) while developing the subject, as its title implies, by means of augmentation and contrary motion.

It is possible that the inspiration for these four canons came from Bach's own Fuga Canonica in Epidiapente which he had earlier composed for the Musical Offering, and to which they bear a marked resemblance.

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