Bach, Johann Sebastian / orch. Graeser, Wolfgang


Bach, Johann Sebastian / orch. Graeser, Wolfgang

The Art of the Fugue for ochestra (incl. Graeser biography in German)

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Johann Sebastian Bach
(b. Eisenach, 21/31 March 1685 – d. Leipsic, 28 July 1750)

arranged in a meaningful order and orchestrated by

Wolfgang Graeser
(b. Zurich, 7 September 1906 – d. Berlin, 13 June 1928)

Die Kunst der Fuge
(The Art of the Fugue, 1750/arr. ca. 1923-27)

Contrapunctus I
for solo strings (p. 1)
Contrapunctus II
for solo strings (p. 8)
Contrapunctus III
for solo strings (p. 15)
Contrapunctus IV
for solo strings (p. 21)
Contrapunctus V
for strings and organ (half of the complete string orchestra) (p. 32)
Contrapunctus VI
for strings and organ (two-thirds of the complete string orchestra) (p. 41)
Contrapunctus VII
for string orchestra and organ (p. 52)
Contrapunctus VIII
for string orchestra, brass and organ (p. 67)
Contrapunctus IX
for woodwinds (soli and tutti) (p. 83)
Contrapunctus X
for string orchestra and woodwinds (p. 88)
Contrapunctus XI
for string orchestra, woodwinds, brass and organ (p. 98)
Contrapunctus XII (Canon in Hypodiapason)
for harpsichord solo (p. 128)
Contrapunctus XIII (Canon alla Duodecima)
for harpsichord solo (p. 132)
Contrapunctus XIV (Canon alla Decima)
for organ solo (p. 134)
Contrapunctus XV (Canon al roverscio et per augmentationem)
for organ solo (p. 138)
Contrapunctus XVI.
Rectus for 3 woodwinds (p. 142)
Inversus for 3 woodwinds (p. 145)
Contrapunctus XVII
Rectus for 2 harpsichords (p. 148)
Inversus for 2 harpsichords (p. 152)
Contrapunctus XVIII (rectus & inversus)
for string orchestra and organ (p. 156)
Contrapunctus XIX (unfinished)
for string orchestra, woodwinds, brass and organ (p. 167)
Chorale ’Vor Deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit’ (p. 201)

Biography in German: ’Wolfgang Graeser’ by Hans Zurlinden (1935; p. 207)


The ’Art of the Fugue’ had become a myth long before the 20th century and was mainly considered as a purely abstract counterpoint game that was not intended for performance. Wolfgang Graeser was the man to terminate this ideological misconception. Around 1922-23 he found a score of the ’Art of the Fugue’ in an antiquarian bookshop. The music became the main obsession in his short life. Already as a high school graduate, he worked on what he considered the definitive order of the ’Art of the Fugue’, and began the orchestration according to his research results. In 1926 his new edition of Bach’s original score was published as supplemetary volume No. XLVII of Breitkopf & Härtel’s complete edition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s works. Graeser’s edition claimed to have restored the ’Art of the Fugue’ in its original form. In 1928 this groundbreaking release was followed by the printed edition of Graeser’s orchestration that paved the way for the work’s future reception. It was premièred with incomparable success under the direction of Karl Straube (1873-1950) in Leipsic’s Thomaskirche on 26 June 1927, and was immediately taken up by many further conductors such as Hans Weisbach, Wilhelm Kempff, Hermann Scherchen, Siegmund von Hausegger, Hermann Abendroth, Robert Laugs, Erich Kleiber, Felix Weingartner, Leopold Stokowski (in New York), Robert Heger, Gustav Classens, Joseph Keilberth etc. At the same time Hans Theodor David (1902-67) had started his work on the work’s general design and came to differing results (the première of David’s orchestration was given in Kiel under Fritz Stein in the fall of 1928). The Bach community split into ’Graeserians’ and ’Davidians’ but the name of Wolfgang Graeser who had already committed suicide less than a year after the crowning first performance of his achievement stayed the symbol for the discovery of the ’Art of the Fugue’ and the starting signal for its performance history. His orchestration appeared in print in 1928. Later on, many conductors made their own versions (Franz von Hoesslin, Fritz Stiedry, Hermann Scherchen etc.) or commissioned new orchestrations (Ina Lohr, Roger Vuataz etc.). From 1940 on, Karl Hermann Pillney’s (1896-1980) orchestration was played the most (like Donald Francis Tovey [1875-1940] shortly before him Pillney at that time had already composed a substantial completion of Bach’s unfinished final fugue). Each of these versions has its merits and weaknesses, and Graeser’s pioneering work is still worth to be studied and performed.

We complete this first study score edition of Graeser’s orchestration with two appendices in German: Graeser’s own preface to his supplementary volume of J. S. Bach’s complete works from 1926 and the only Graeser biography, written by Hans Zurlinden (1892-1972) and published in Munich in 1935.

C. S. , July 2018

Performance material and conductor’s score are available from the original publisher Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden (

Score No.



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210 x 297 mm