Bach: Die Kunst der Fuge / Masaaki Suzuki

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The Art of Fugue emerges as the central instrumental project of the last decade of Bach’s life, after a gradual development over several years: the exploration in depth and with an overflowing musical imagination of the contrapuntal possibilities inherent in a single musical subject. In this work, the theoretical component of Bach’s thinking is at its clearest: theory and practice merge, old and new stylistic elements and compositional techniques are integrated and demonstrate in an incomparable way his individual approach to composition.

Since Bach gave no indication of the instrument, nor does his writing shed any further light on the subject, one might even wonder whether this work is a purely theoretical work, intended solely for musical analysis. However, since the composer’s rediscovery in the nineteenth century, musicians have appropriated the work, whatever their instrument. It is now generally accepted that the work was composed for the keyboard. A second harpsichord part is added for three fugues, played here by Masato Suzuki.

After several acclaimed recordings of Bach’s works for keyboard instruments, Masaaki Suzuki finally takes on this immense work, the pinnacle of the cantor’s art and one of the absolute peaks of Western music.


Although Masaaki Suzuki’s solo harpsichord Bach recordings span several decades, his technical and musical consistency seems to defy time, as borne out in The Art of Fugue. He continues to use a Willem Kroesbergen harpsichord modeled after a Flemish Baroque-style instrument, whose transparent timbres befit the vocal orientation governing his phrasing. For example, his tempos never move faster nor slower than one can comfortably sing. As a result, the contrapuntal lines accommodate Suzuki’s breath pauses, arpeggiations, agogic adjustments, and ritards at cadences.

In lieu of Bach’s completion, Suzuki follows the tradition of placing Bach’s valedictory chorale prelude Wenn wir in höchstein Nöten sein at the end. All in all, a fine Art of Fugue that complements my harpsichord reference versions. BIS’s superb sonics and Bach scholar Christoph Wolff’s in-depth annotations also deserve kudos.

-- (Jed Distler)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 22, 2024

  • Catalog Number: BIS-2531

  • UPC: 7318599925318

  • Label: BIS

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Period: Baroque

  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Performer: Masaaki Suzuki, Masato Suzuki


  1. Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Performer: Masato Suzuki (Harpsichord)