CHAMPAIGN — The Baroque Artists of Champaign-Urbana will perform Johann Sebastian Bach's "The Art of Fugue" in concert at 7:30 p.m. next Sunday at Grace Lutheran Church, 313 S. Prospect Ave.
Organist Dana M. Robinson and harpsichordist Charlotte Mattax Moersch will perform the piece, which is seldom performed live. The two University of Illinois School of Music faculty members will present the original autograph version (1742) of the work as part of BACH's 18th season.
Like other late works of the Baroque master, "The Art of the Fugue" was part of a large project that occupied Bach during the final decade of his life, when he sought to demonstrate his compositional mastery of a specific genre.
Published at his own expense, these collections were designed to ensure Bach's reputation for all posterity.
Each of the 14 movements of the 1742 version uses one principal theme, as well as an increasingly diverse array of counter-themes, to present Bach's exhaustive study of the possible contrapuntal elaborations therein. Included are such techniques as having the theme played upside down, twice as fast as the original and twice as slow.
There also are elaborate canons, including one in which all of the parts can be played turned upside down, and another in which a variant of the theme is played simultaneously in two parts, the second line playing the first inverted and twice as slowly.
The combination of keyboard virtuosity and mental concentration required to perform this masterpiece have made live performances of it rare, according to a BACH news release.
A preconcert lecture by BACH music director Chester Alwes is set for 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and are available at http://www.baroqueartists.org and at the door.