A1 Gigue by J.S.Bach is a jolly three-in-a-bar romp - you can imagine period woodwind instruments enjoying themselves throughout. Lots of broken triads and inversions in binary form. The first thing I do after playing through is to identify the subject entries, that way the piece can be divided effectively into sections for practice. Hence the second section begins at bar 14, the third at bar 25, the fourth at bar 39 where it enters in e minor, and the final section at the end of the journey through the circle of fifths at bar 49. Entries come in through the treble, middle and bass voices respectively in part A and are completely inverted to bass, middle and treble in part B. The final entry in the low tonic bass is joyous. There is scope for varying articulation where there are echoes, e.g. bars 9 and 10. Dynamic range I find varies naturally with the rise and fall of the subject and counter subject and progress of the episodes, e.g. bars 35 - 38. There is rather a tricky moment ahead of this episode at bars 32 to 34, so I would advise that students take the overall pace at a metronome mark where they can control the fingering changes in those bars. A happy choice, with the alternative Bach Prelude and Fugue at A4 also a favourite.
The fingering demands of the A2 Handel Fugue in B flat stood out for me as I began to explore the piece. Changing fingering on the same note 'exercises' should really be done early on in technique development to get the best out of this piece; now I know the benefits of Tankard and Harrison! Whereas the gigue has buoyancy, this piece has a grandeur about it that builds towards a magnificent climax - very Handel. General approaches:
~ find the subjects in different voices and play them through to familiarise
~ write in your own fingering (although no need to change suggestions mostly)
~ choose how to articulate each subject and observe throughout
~ make the most of finger pedalling - there is no need for damper pedalling until we get to the broader points for warmth
~ suspensions and dissonances should have a cantabile tone and finger legato
There are particular moments where key changes/movement invite dynamic variety eg the crescendo in bar 27 or the rise and fall through the cadence point at bar 43 into 44. The climax really starts at the end of bar 64 with the second subject figures; this is where use of the pedal will bring the fugue to a dramatic finale. The metronome mark of 116 should be accessible, but slow practice is necessary.
Fancy going 'off-piste'? Look no further...A3 Schedrin Prelude and Fugue in A minor hasn't grown on me yet, probably because I enjoy the music of the three earlier contemporaries (Bach, Handel, Scarlatti) so much more and, I have to admit, I haven't given enough time yet to appreciate the theory that's gone into it. What strikes you immediately is the angular, jarring chromaticism of it all, especially the fugue, which keeps this up right to the end. There are so many clashes, but the piece is no doubt a homage to Bach's structural influences. In the prelude the conversation between the hands is neat, with the occasional cross-rhythm to add variety to the metre. The left hand needs to be nimble and have a light, deft touch for the quavers (especially bars 41 to 44) and a loose wrist will support the lateral movement made by the semiquaver groups too. Bars 25 to 30 are very tricky - I've written all the fingering in here and ringed the 'over the thumb' in bar 28 as an aid. When it comes to preparing the fugue, thankfully the openings and endings of the expositions are obvious. There are some interesting changes in dynamics to be exploited. Intervals are tricky for smaller hands at times. The one pedal marking is interesting - perhaps we can find other places where touches are needed - to aid the legatissimo directions in bars 11/12 and similar, for example. There mustn't be any blurring if the pedal is used with the crotchet beat. It remains a choice for students who relish something very different!