Reviews, Commentary, and Program Notes concerning 
Michael Ferguson's completion of Bach's Contrapunctus 14

Commentary by Michael Barone, host of Minnesota Public Radio's national Pipedreams® program, in program No. 2030 (7/24/2000), "The Art of Escape, Part II":

"Is there an ultimate? Can we imagine anyone other than Bach writing an appropriate conclusion to this movement of his which ... was to provide the technical and emotional climax to 75 preceding minutes of the most intense fugal counterpoint? Too much to ask of anyone, maybe even of Bach? ... But when I first heard Michael Ferguson's completion of this extraordinary piece, it just felt right. Maybe it's the way he plays it, with such assurance, even a little bit of bravado. When it's time to introduce the fourth theme, which was to happen just at the point beyond where Bach's original manuscript drops off, things become extraordinarily dramatic. We listen, and are amazed and delighted, and at the very end want to shout bravo! ... Bach has not escaped from us here; we have found him, and brought him home.

"This is an affirmation; this is the prize awarded and applauded. Listen as we take Contrapunctus 14 straight from the top, and all the way through to its rightful end.

"Michael Ferguson certainly has taken us on a trip to the limits of possibility [with] his original and profoundly enjoyable conclusion to Bach's unfinished Contrapunctus 14 from the Art of Fugue. ... Thank you, Michael Ferguson, for bravery accomplished, bringing Bach home again."

Program note by Brian Newhouse for a concert by the Westminster Abbey Choir, at Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, 10/25/1996:

"Composers across the centuries have tried to finish [Contrapunctus 14], but for most it's been an Everest too tall to climb. St. Paul native Michael Ferguson has grafted four minutes of music onto Bach's eight and has succeeded where others have not. Ferguson's experience as an internationally-performed composer and superb organist helped him immensely. You'll be hard-pressed to find the seam between his music and Bach's, and Ferguson's own music has a grandeur and conviction that would undoubtedly have pleased Bach, whom Ferguson calls the musician's Master of Masters."

Review of the same concert by the Westminster Abbey Choir, by Michael Anthony of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/27/1996:

"As an interlude, Abbey organist Martin Baker played Michael Ferguson's intriguing completion of J.S. Bach's Contrapunctus XIV, which Bach left unfinished."

Program note by Andrew Reid concerning Michael Ferguson's completion for Bach's Contrapunctus XIV, for Martin Baker's organ recital (7/16/1996) at the 1996 Grand Organ Festival, Westminster Cathedral, London:

"The contrapuntal detail is virtually consistent with Bach's style, and the control of techniques is masterly."

Review by Jonathan Ambrosino in the Spring 1994 issue of The Tracker (the quarterly journal of the Organ Historical Society) of Michael Ferguson’s performance of Contrapunctus 14 on the Pipedreams Premieres CD:

"Take Michael Ferguson’s performance of his completion of Bach’s great Contrapunctus XIV from Art of Fugue. Ferguson’s playing succeeds, not only for clarity of presentation, but for the spellbinding manner in which he spins out his own conclusion of this monumental quadruple fugue. To quote Barone, Ferguson introduces, “34 new statements of the four themes in 12 new combinations, five of them new stretti, as well as all four themes together—once upside down, and once rightside up.” This thrilling, inventive writing brings the work to an entirely persuasive conclusion. ... It would be advantageous, then, to hear this wonderful piece performed on another instrument than the House of Hope Fisk. Although the music comes across plenty clear, the irregularities and lack of refinement in its plenum simply do not measure up to the beauty of the writing. ... [O]ne can ... hope that Ferguson records this stunning work [again,] elsewhere."

Review by David Bonds in American Record Guide (January/February 1994) of Michael Ferguson's performance of Contrapunctus 14 on the Pipedreams Premieres CD:

"It is impossible to tell (without a score) where Bach ends and Ferguson begins in this well-crafted completion of the Art of Fugue. It is an exemplary performance on the Fisk organ at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul."

Review by Haig Mardirosian in Fanfare magazine (November/December 1993) of Michael Ferguson's performance of Contrapunctus 14 on the Pipedreams Premieres CD:

"Michael Ferguson, a young Minnesotan, has undertaken the ultimate ... and earned a premiere prix. ... Ferguson's consummate accomplishment [has] conquered the unconquerable."

Program note by James Frazier for his organ recital at the Cathedral of St. Paul (St. Paul, MN, on 10/25/1991):

"Learned speculation on the part of musicologists has led to the common belief that Bach intended to introduce for a fourth theme the same theme used in the earlier fugues [of the Art of Fugue]. In much the same way that a blank piece of paper begs for a sketch, the silence of Bach's last fugal testament begs for completion. The ending we hear tonight adds that fourth subject, integrates it with the previous three, and draws them all to a masterful conclusion. It represents a significant contribution by Michael Ferguson, a Twin Cities composer and organist whose mature musical gifts are the more astonishing in one so young."

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