The fugue of Bach’s lute suite in C minor is a long da capo-structured piece that has undergone much discussion. David Ledbetter describes it as ‘certainly the greatest baroque fugue for lute, and one of Bach’s greatest fugues overall’, and rates both it and its Prelude as ‘worthy to stand beside the latest and greatest of the preludes and fugues of the second Well-tempered Clavier’.[1] In his analysis of the middle section, Ledbetter focuses on what he calls ‘palindromes’, that is, statements that appear in the same fashion whether they are presented forwards or backwards. Though I am unsure in what respect he considers the musical material reversible (rhythmically? melodically?), it is worth noting that he groups these ‘palindromic passages’ according to the following bar numbers:










Ledbetter focuses here on passages that are, incidentally, problematic on the guitar bouzouki. It’s more or less impossible with the tuning at hand to create a replacement for thirds played in sixteenth-note mini-arpeggios in the lower voice, as Bach’s autograph demands. I have instead proposed the following simplifications, once again losing some of the textural riches that Gould mentioned above. The passages are roughly the same as the ones described by Ledbetter, and contain the same material in different keys; consequently, they need the same simplifications in order to appear as homogenously as possible. Here’s the outcome of the simplification process of the first two corresponding groups of material:

The same passages in rehearsal:

Here is my suggestion for simplifying the next pair of corresponding passages:

In rehearsal:

And the last of these pairs:

In rehearsal:

[1] David Ledbetter, ‘Improvisation, Da Capos and Palindromes in BWV 997 and 998’, Understanding Bach, 6 (2011), 19–34 <http://www.bachnetwork.co.uk/ub6/Ledbetter UB6.pdf> [accessed 26 May 2013] (p.5).