Return to Homepage

On-line Book Review


Dimension: 25.2 x 19.4 x 1.6 cm
TITLE The Langloz Manuscript: Fugal Improvisation through Figured Bass by William Renwick
PUBL. DETAILS Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. xvii+190p. Hard back. Price: £50,00.
ISBN 0-19-816729-6
TO ORDER Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, UK.
DESCRIPTION A monograph on the practice of fugal improvisation of Bach's time seen through the Langloz manuscript; accompanied by the edition and facsimile.
WORKS COVERED BWV 537, 541, 551, 772-801, 846-893, 907-8, 910, 992, 1001, 1003, 1080, Anh.42, 98
READERSHIP Scholars specialised in the performance practice of Bach's time, esp. keyboard players.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION Manuscript studies, biography of musicians in Thuringia, performance / teaching practice of Bach's time

t is well known that in the Baroque era fugues are often improvised at the keyboard. But it is not so well known that many Baroque fugues are founded on thoroughbass (figured bass), relying heavily on the underlying harmony and voice-leading. 

It becomes immediately apparent when we think of a difference in contrapuntal styles between a typical Renaissance piece and one of Bach's fugues. It is not surprizing, therefore, that in Bach's time the study of fugue was often done 'practically' as an advanced section of figured-bass exercises.


Thematic Catalogue
1    Partimento Fugue
2 Format and Contents of the Langloz Manuscript
3 Origins of the Langloz Manuscript
4 Principles of Performance
5 The Edition
6 The Facsimile

 it looks clean and accurate

Although there are other ways to teach how to approach fugues as well, the author argues that the so-called the Langloz manuscript (Mus. ms. Bach P 296 in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preusischer Kulturbesitz)---of which its title-page bears the name of Bach as the author of these fugues [which, as he concludes, is very unlikely]---has close association with Bach. Although this source was known for more than a century (see, e.g. work by Spitta and Schmieder), it has not been examined properly until now. Renwick, whose benefited hugely from the recent scholarship (esp. Schulze), examines various aspects of the manuscript and its contents thoroughly and cautiously, drawing to our attention many illuminating facts; it is interesting, for example, that some of the fugue subjects show close resemblance with those of WTC and other fugues by Bach, and for this alone this manuscript seems very valuable for our study on Bach's style of teaching fugues at the keyboard.

Renwick's research into the scribe, August Wilhelm Langloz (1745-1811), is also valuable for those scholars studying other musicians, esp. Johann Nicolaus Bach, Niedt, Kittel and Westphal, to name but four. Although Renwick failed offer a definitive answer to the question of Bach's authorship, it seems all the possible answers were vigorously looked into. For this we must wait for further research on Erfurt musicians in the second half of the 18th century among many others.

The edition is a modern transcription of the facsimile, preserving the layout (so that a reader can find the place on the facsimile with ease), while updating some notational aspects. Although I found several inconsistencies in the way cautionary accidentals are handled, it looks clean and accurate. The edition is accompanied by Renwick's helpful commentary.

Published online on 5 August 2002

Return to the previous page