Bach's "Musical Offering" and "Art of Fugue"

The Musical Offering

BWV 1079 (1747)

This work is dedicated to Frederick the Great of Prussia.  It consists of 13 compositions:

All are based on a theme by Frederick on which Bach had improvised while visiting him in 1747.  (Bach's son, C.P.E., was the court harpsichordist for Frederick.)  Upon returning to Leipzig, Bach revised and wrote out his improvisations.

The proper order of the pieces is uncertain (as is the instrumentation, except for the trio sonata), although some believe the trio sonata served as the middle portion of the whole.

The work is noted for its intense look at the form and procedures of the canon.  The types of canons found in the "Offering" are:

Art of Fugue

BWV 1080 (1745-1750)

The printed edition of this work contains 14 pieces (referred to as "contrapuncti"), all based on the same theme.  It is a systematic, didactic demonstration of all types of fugal writing, arranged in a general order of increasing complexity (some controversy exists as to the correct order).  The intended medium of performance is uncertain.  Bach had it engraved in open score without instrument designations.  It was unfinished at his death.

The work explores:

It includes: A concluding chorale prelude, "Wenn wir is höchsten Noten sein" (BWV 668), was added to the work by its editors to "compensate" for incomplete and missing material.
(See also Bach's Fugue)