ROBERT SCHUMANN (1810 - 1856)
Fuge über den Namen BACH, Opus 60 Nr. 6
orchestration by Henk de Vlieger, 2007
Throughout his entire life, Robert Schumann had a boundless admiration for Johann Sebastian Bach. In his Musikalische Haus- und Lebensregeln he encouraged young people to be diligent in playing fugues by the masters, and those by J.S. Bach in particular: “Be sure you live and breathe the Wohltemperierte Klavier and you will become a competent musician”. In the year 1845, he dedicated himself to intensive studies of counterpoint, together with his wife Clara. For Clara this led to her wonderful Drei Präludien und Fugen, opus 16 for piano. In the same year, Robert composed his only work for organ: Sechs Fugen über den Namen BACH, opus 60. All the themes of this fugue cycle open with the notes B-A-C-H (or: B-flat, A, C, B-natural). Schumann considered these compositions to be of major importance and suspected that this work would survive all his others. In a letter to his publisher he wrote that he had worked on them for a whole year in order to do justice to the eminent eponym. The six fugues are indeed unmistakeably modelled on Bach’s Kunst der Fuge. However, it is not the work of an epigone because the pieces exude the romantic atmosphere that was so characteristic of Schumann.
Commissioned by NTR ZaterdagMatinee, I orchestrated the last and longest fugue in 2007. This sixth fugue is a double fugue with a particularly romantic characteristic - throughout the entire piece there is a gradual acceleration, which means the tempo at the end is twice as fast as at the beginning. Initially, Schumann uses a masterful and strict construction, but during the last minutes it feels like he wishes to escape from the constraints. At the end of the work, the main themes have made room for a choral-like apotheosis with the same manic character as the finale of his Second Symphony, which was created during the same period. My orchestration dovetails this idea as it was my objective to remain faithful to the instrumentation principles of the composer. This absolute masterpiece deserves more recognition and I sincerely hope that this orchestral version makes a contribution to achieving just that.
Henk de Vlieger
The first performance was given on Febrary 14, 2009, in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, by the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, conducted by Jaap van Zweden.
Orchestra: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, strings