Far removed from the world of the Italian Concerto and French Overture are the Four Duets
, BWV802–805. They are curiously included in the third volume of Clavierübung
, published by Bach himself in 1739. This is otherwise a collection of works for organ, and certainly their two voices (hence ‘Duets’) sound just as well on that instrument as on any other. They resemble the two-part Inventions, but are much more characteristic of Bach’s later style. Written in ascending keys, the first in E minor opens with a scale but then tacks on an awkward figure that can be very clumsy to play. It reminds me of the A minor Prelude from Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier
, with its chromaticisms and invertible counterpoint. The second in F major starts out happily enough, but then proceeds to a middle section almost entirely written in canon and with quite a wild subject. The third in G major is perhaps the most immediately attractive with its lovely pastoral rhythm in 12/8 time. Finishing in the key of A minor, the fourth duet is rather rugged and angular, with two chromatic sequences bringing some startling harmonic progressions. To the usual dedication ‘for music lovers to refresh their spirits’ Bach adds ‘and especially for connoisseurs of such work’. These four duets are definitely ‘musicians’ music’ which, despite their beauty, makes them relatively obscure.
from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2001