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Canonic Variations and Fugue, BVB40
1916; on the Theme by King Frederick the Great, from J S Bach's Musical Offering

'Busoni: Late Piano Music' (CDA67951/3)
Busoni: Late Piano Music
Buy by post £26.00 CDA67951/3  3CDs   Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Track 10 on CDA67951/3 CD1 [7'22] 3CDs

Canonic Variations and Fugue, BVB40
Busoni, who was fascinated in his late years by the contrapuntal possibilities of Bach’s works, published in 1917 two ‘contrapuntal studies’: one was an analytical edition of the Fantasy and Fugue in A minor, BWV904, the other a realization of the canons from the Musical Offering, BWV1079, published as Canonic Variations and Fugue ‘(on the theme by King Frederick the Great)’. After showing the layout in Bach’s original (using a different order from that of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe), Busoni presents the ‘Thema regium’ (played by both hands at a distance of two octaves) followed by his realization of nine canons, the last one being the fugue:

Andante alla breve (Thema regium)
Canon perpetuus: two parts surrounding the theme, one bar apart; with note values twice as long as in Bach
Quaerendo invenietis: ‘Seek and you shall find’; mirror canon with the follower, being the inversion of the ornamented theme, two bars apart
Canon a 4: four presentations of a theme, seven bars apart, going from one to four parts
Canon cancrizans: the theme against itself, but stated backwards
Per motum contrarium: the theme in the highest part, with two canonic parts moving in contrary motion, the follower starting a fourth lower than the leader
Per augmentationem contrario motu: the top part in inversion and twice as slow as the bottom one, around the ornamented theme in the middle part
Per tonos: canon at the fifth, one bar apart, against the ornamented theme in the top part; two repetitions out of the possible six
In unisono: canon at the fifth, one bar apart, with the theme in the bottom part, in octaves
Fuga canonica in epidiapente: fugue consisting of a canon at the fifth above, ten bars apart, with a third part underneath

The perpetual canon, scored for violin, flute and keyboard, is left out. Creating this concert version for two hands required much part-crossing and octave transposition, as well as minor modifications to link the pieces into a continuous stream.

from notes by Marc-André Roberge © 2013

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA67951/3 disc 1 track 10
Recording date
24 August 2012
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Busoni: Late Piano Music (CDA67951/3)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: November 2013
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