In an 1806 treatise, Christian Schubart described D-sharp minor as a key which expresses “emotions of the anxiousness of the soul’s deepest misery, of brooding despair, of blackest melancholy, of essentially the most gloomy situation of the soul.” Schubart concluded with the chilling assertion, “If ghosts might communicate, their speech would approximate this key.”
Within the early twentieth century, expressive variations between keys grew to become blurred following the adoption of equal temperament in tuning. Nonetheless, J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No. 8 in D-sharp minor, BWV 877 conveys the edginess of this distant key, with its six sharps. It’s a part of the second ebook of The Effectively-Tempered Clavier, through which Bach strikes by all twenty 4 keys “for the revenue and use of musical youth desirous of studying, and particularly for the pastime of these already expert on this examine.”
The Prelude, solid in two sections, is a two-part invention made up of imitative counterpoint. Stylistically, it suggests the Allemande, a solemn, moderate-tempo German courtly dance. The four-voice fugue’s opening topic is stuffed with melancholy and longing. Unfolding with double inverted counterpoint, it builds in pressure with wrenching harmonic surprises. Within the remaining measures, the precept topic seems in mirror inversion between the soprano and tenor line.
The German harpsichordist and pianist, Christine Schornsheim, recorded this efficiency in April, 2022 for the Netherlands Bach Society:
The tempestuous facet of D-sharp minor emerges in Alexander Scriabin’s Étude, Op. 8, No. 12, composed 1894. That is daring, Romantic music stuffed with feverish ardour and technical challenges which demand supreme virtuosity. The “ghosts” of this music are ferocious and swirling. Concurrently, they push the music to the sting of terror and euphoria.
Daniil Trifonov gave this efficiency in Berlin in November of 2019:
- J.S. Bach: The Effectively-Tempered Clavier, Christine Schornsheim Amazon
- Scriabin: Étude in D-sharp minor, Op. 8, No. 12, Vladimir Horowitz Amazon
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