Dimension: 30.2 x 21.5 x 2 cm
||Verschiedene Canones ... von J. S. Bach (BWV 1087).
Herausgegeben von Reinhard Böß
||München: edition text + kritik (1996), 258p. Hard
back. Price: DM 145 / öS 1,059,-- / sfr 129,--
||edition text + kritik
im Richard Boorberg Verlag GmbH & Co., Levelingstraße 6a, 81673
München, Germany. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
||Amazing 268 solutions to Bach’s "14 canons" put in score,
with detailed accompanying commentary
||Scholars and highly dedicated music lovers of this highly
fascinating collection of canons.
||Detailed discussion of each canon; speculative but powerful
argument of the work as a unified whole.
Olivier Alain’s discovery of Bach’s
of the Goldberg Variations in Strasbourg in 1974 is often regarded as one
of the greatest Bach-source finds of the 20th century. This personal copy
contains not only numerous corrections and revisions to the music but also
a previously unknown set of fourteen canons (BWV 1087) which Bach entered
neatly on an unused page at the back of the volume. Entitled ‘various canons
on the first eight fundamental notes of the preceding Aria’, these canons
appear to have been arranged in the order of increasing contrapuntal complexity.
Moreover, this number ‘fourteen’ may be intended to represent Bach’s numerical
signature (BACH = 2 + 1 + 3 + 8 = 14), a speculative nature of subject
which is pursued by Böß in his edition.
Bach wrote these fourteen canons as ‘riddle canon’; thus a solution
has to be found before they can be performed. It is not the first time
that solutions are published; the Neue Bach Ausgabe published a
solution to each canon in volume V/2 (1977 edited by Christoph Wolff),
and several further practical editions followed. So what is significant
about Böß’s edition?
Röß relies his interpretation heavily on mathematical (numerological)
possibilities which he develops from the famous number-alphabet ‘BACH=14’:
the construction of the work, i.e. 269, is arrived at by 67 (=CANONES)
x 4 [four modes, i.e. Rectus, Krebs, Inversus & Inversuskrebs] + 1
[coda], which equals to ‘FUNDAMENTAL (105) + NOTEN (64) + QUODLIBET (100)’.
There are also many other numbers that he manipulates to work out the detailed
sectional structure of his solutions, which he produces in five groups:
Nos.1-4, 5-9, 10, 11-13 and 14 with coda.
Zur Einführung in den Notenteil
Allgemeines zu BWV 1087
Zur Strukturverschlüsselung bei Bach - Materialaufstellung und
Analyse der Originalhandschrift
The most striking feature of this edition is the way the canons are resolved
and presented for performance: unlike a simple set of academic solutions
offered by Wolff for the NBA edition, Böß gives the solutions
in a long, single movement consisting of 269 sections (i.e. 268 canon solutions
plus one coda) in 2148 bars: he calls it ‘complete decoding and development’.
of the work as a unified whole
He chooses his instrumentations from the following: oboe, violin, English
horn, viola, bassoon, cello and 2 harpsichords. He doubles the instruments
(which allows performers to choose either six instrument setting or two
harpsichord one, or even both) and changes the instrumentation at the mid
point of each canon (i.e. at repeats). Such decisions seems to have been
made for purely musical reasons (rather than mathematical ones) so that
the music can be heard with a sufficient variety of sound texture. While
his speculative reasoning may be open to questions (e.g. why each canon
should be performed four times in different modes and why the word ‘QUODLIBET’
should be considered as an important conceptual factor for structuring
the piece), many would appreciate his edition of musical rendering of this
mysterious set of 14 riddle canons in a total of c70 minutes of
performance time; it is, in my view, a far more listenable version than
anything suggested earlier.
Published on-line on 5 March 2001