Horizontal-Shifting Counterpoint and Parallel-Section Constructions in Contrapunctus 8 and 11 from J. S. Bach's Art of Fugue

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Denis Collins


Contrapuncti 8 and 11 from Bach’s Art of Fugue demonstrate triple fugal writing in three and four parts respectively. Contrapunctus 11 employs the original and inverted forms of the three subjects used in Contrapunctus 8. This paper investigates specific contrapuntal techniques used by Bach to articulate the sectional designs of each contrapunctus and to identify combinations of particular structural importance across both works. The approach draws upon the term horizontal-shifting counterpoint, originally coined by the early twentieth-century Russian theorist Sergei Taneyev, to assist in describing Bach’s sophisticated use of imitative contrapuntal combinations that pervade the fabrics of several sections in each contrapunctus. This study also draws upon Joel Lester’s model of heightened sectional constructions to show how Bach intensifies the contrapuntal combinations between and across the sections of both works.

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