Marcin Masecki Plays The Art of the Fuge
no-image, Marcin Masecki Plays The Art of the Fuge
For Marcin Masecki, Bach's Fugues are the Mount Everest of piano. How did this young Polish pianist and composer scale the heights of this monumental work?
contemporary classical music
art of the fugue
die kunst der fuge
Cover of "Die Kunst der Fuge Bach/Masecki"
Masecki toyed with recording the set of late Fugues of J.S. Bach for years before he set foot in the studio. His first attempt to find an appealing, contemporary performance approach was in London in 2007. He then spent five years playing the fugues, which intimidate most classical perfomers, filtering them through a series of objective and subjective factors, seeking a performance style that would break with convention and dust off the fugues's incisive musicality.
A challenging element in his process was finding the right instrument. He tested a Wurlitzer electric piano, a harpsichord, even his mother's old Steinway, specially tuned to produce the sound of an instrument of Bach's era. But the instrument alone wasn't enough for Masecki. Having been fascinated by the Fugues since elementary school, having practiced the set enough to know how he wanted to perform them, he still didn't quite know how to record them. Masecki finds something lacking in contemporary classical recordings: They are "too clean, too perfect". In his characteristic "break" with established forms, he recorded his Art of the Fugue renditions on a dictaphone.
The dictaphone idea came during a rehearsal with Paristetris, his alternative-rock band. They recorded a recent song on the dictaphone, with all its scruffy imperfections. Masecki thought the device might be just the trick for the sound he was seeking, and his Art of the Fugue was on its way to the recording studio.
The album title is Die Kunst der Fuge Bach/Masecki, the pianist recognising a performer's impact on the essence of a piece of music. For Masecki, the Fugues are a scientific sequence of pieces. He acknowledges that many may sound alike to the untrained ear, and that the score's role is invaluable in appreciating the work. In his recorded version, "The noise of the tape and the compression of sound urge the reader to focus on the structure of the fugue. The piece reaches the mind, not the senses, per se". The sweat and effort Masecki has put into the album is a testament to his vision for taking musical heritage and investing it with new life. He understands and retains the essence of the Baroque, while bringing in his own musical sensibility.
The Art of Fugue is among the late unfinished works of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). "The governing idea of the work", as Bach specialist Christoph Wolff put it, is "an exploration in depth of the contrapuntal possibilities inherent in a single musical subject". There are two versions of the set. The first, Bach's 1742 manuscript, contained twelve fugues and two canons. The second, published posthumously in 1751, includes three new fugues and two canons. The versions differ in order, with minor changes in the score. The first presents the works as a complete series, while the second breaks off during the last fugue, where his son famously added Bach's postscript: "At the point where the composer introduces the name BACH [for which the English notation would be B♭-A-C-B♮] in the countersubject to this fugue, the composer died."
Marcin Masecki (born 1982) is a pianist, composer and producer whose style oscillates between jazz, classical and experimental music. He has become one of the creative and original musicians of the new generation, recording and performing as a member of a jazz ensemble and in avant-garde and pop-music bands. He has founded and co-founded successful musical projects and groups through the 21st century's first decade.
Masecki is expected to debut the album and perform in concert in Warsaw in early September 2012 at Bar Ka (Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 31/33) along the Vistula River at 9 p.m.
Die Kunst Der Fuge
LADO Abc, 2012 / National Audiovisual Institute
For more about Marcin Masecki and The Art of the Fugue, see his website: www.marcinmasecki.com
Author: Agnieszka Le Nart