Fugue No 4
in B minor manifests Handel’s characteristic response to a key significant to the Classical Baroque age in that it symbolized harsh reality and purgatorial suffering and saw through the pomp associated with D major, its relative. Handel, in the years before the Enlightenment, used it infrequently; this fugue is more curious than superb, opening with a falling fifth which periodically returns as a refuge from chromatic incertitudes, including a passage in rising sequences. But what most salvages rational man from irrational (B minor) peril is the consistent figuration in the rhythm of three quavers followed by two semiquavers. This metrical nagging may be meant to be affirmative, but tends to wear us down. After a long dominant pedal to approach the final cadence, Handel releases himself and us in a quasi-vocal cadenza.
from notes by Wilfrid Mellers © 1995