Die Kunst einer Fuge is dedicated in its entirety to Theodor W. Adorno. Although Zacher, in a personal correspondence, indicates that he was particularly fascinated by Adorno's Einleitung in die Musiksoziologie ['Introduction to the Sociology of Music'], I will mainly refer to a different volume of collected essays.
 Adorno's volume, Prismen [Prisms], which includes the essay, 'Bach gegen seine Liebhaber verteidigt' ['Bach Defended Against His Devotees'], was first published in 1955. It reacts against an image of Bach that musicologists had built during the 1950's, namely that of a brilliant, but traditional (anachronistic, restorative) composer of church music. 'In him, it is said, there is once again the revelation - in the middle of the Century of Enlightenment - of the time-honoured bounds of tradition, of the spirit of medieval polyphony, of the theologically vaulted cosmos' (Adorno, 1981, p.135). Caught up by an inappropriate nostalgia for the church composer, music historians have turned him into a neutral, innocuous cultural monument. Adorno presents a totally different Bach. For him, Bach is a composer whose music rebelled against the church and broke through the narrow confines of the theological horizon. Rather than traditional, his music may be called modern, full of chromaticism and dissonances, mind-broadening compositional inventions, and new musical techniques (for example, the well-tempered system, a model of rationalization and subjective control in the Enlightenment). It is already announcing the change to the harmonic-functional music of the Viennese classics, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. His music reflects 'the emancipation of the subject to objectivity in a coherent whole of which subjectivity itself was the origin' (Adorno, 1981, p.142). For Adorno, the advancement of history is marked by the subject that liberates itself from every objective order. He looks at Arnold Schönberg's free atonal music as a (temporary) end point. Bach is at the onset of these developments; as such, his shadow (his specter?) is cast before him.
 According to Adorno, the image of Bach as a reactionary and conservative composer has its parallel in certain ideas on the interpretive praxis (of Bach's works) that prevailed during the greater part of the 20th century. Every performance should be as authentic as possible; interpreters should faithfully approach the composition as it must have sounded in Bach's day. Differentiation is puritanically suspect. Subjective and anachronistic interventions must be avoided. 'At times one can hardly avoid the suspicion that the sole concern of today's Bach devotees is to see that no inauthentic dynamics, modifications of tempo, oversized choirs and orchestras creep in; they seem to wait with potential fury lest any more humane impulse become audible in the rendition' (Adorno, 1981, p.142-3). This all takes place under the guise of 'objectivity'. Adorno believes the fallacy of these purists (in Einleitung in die Musiksoziologiee he calls them Ressentiment-Hörer, 'resentment listeners') is that they equate objectivity with the historic first rendition. Adorno's first objection to this is that Bach was fairly flexible towards varying performances of his works. Like other composers of his time, Bach in large measure abandoned sound to taste, to subjective impulses. His second objection is that it is not at all clear whether a first performance or (an attempt at) a reconstruction of it would do justice to the intrinsic substance of his music. Adorno suggests that as Bach left the choice of instruments for his most mature instrumental works open (The Musical Offering and The Art of Fugue), he may have done so because he sensed a contradiction between his musical ideas and the sounds that were available in his time. Perhaps, Bach waited for sounds that would fit them.
 Adorno continues to speak about the relationships between the work, the score and the interpretation of the music. Music defines itself through the tension between the essense of the composition (the work) and its sensuous appearance (the interpretation). The object of interpretation is precisely this: to identify a work with its sensuous appearance. Yet, this can only be done by means of subjective labor and reflection. (Is the meaning of a text inherently implicit or concealed within the text itself, or is it the act of reading that produces meaning?) On this account, the demand for objectivity made by music historians becomes impossible. 'Objectivity is not left over after the subject is subtracted' (Adorno, 1981, p.144). So much for the relationship between work and interpretation. But Adorno immediately brings in a third component, the score: 'The musical score is never identical with the work; devotion to the text means the constant effort to grasp that which it hides' (Adorno, 1981, p.144). 'The intrinsic essence of Bach's music' (Adorno's words) is not equal to the score. It is concealed in the score and can only be recognized through intensive study of the score.
 Adorno regards true interpretation as an x-ray of the work. 'Its task is to illuminate in the sensuous phenomenon the totality of all characteristics and interrelations which have been recognized through intensive study of the score' (Adorno, 1981, p.144). The claim puts a great deal (perhaps an impractible amount of pressure) on the interpreter or performer. To demand that the totality of all characteristics and interrelations be heard is, at best, to ask for an ideal situation. Is it possible to determine the boundary of this totality? Will not every interpretation, every specific reading of a text, every 'Entbergung' unavoidably leave much unaddressed, concealed? Every interpretation adds new meaning to the text. This seems an infinite process. By playing 'Contrapunctus I' ten times in succession, Zacher admits to the fact that one interpretation can never reflect all the possibilities that Bach's score and ideas offer. Each version opens a new listening perspective.
 'The entire richness of the musical texture ... must be placed in prominence by the performance instead of being sacrificed to a rigid, immobile monotony, the spurious semblance of unity that ignores the multiplicity it should embody and surmount' (Adorno, 1981, p.145). Bach's compositions can only come out well when the performers are capable of a clear rendition of the multi-layered structure and the complex voicings. Adorno sees the realization of this in the adaptations, transcriptions and instrumentations of Webern and Schönberg. ('What a composition once meant can only be communicated again in a composition; the arranging composer is then the true interpreter of the classic work, his most faithful 'medium', and his instrument of analysis', Hans Rudolf Zeller writes (Metzger, 1980, p.90). Accurate analysis and a new design at the same time; a space between tradition and innovation.) Unsuspected aspects of the work can be revealed in precisely these adaptations; this is how the work is paid tribute. 'Justice is done Bach not through musicological usurpation but solely through the most advanced composition which in turn converges with the level of Bach's continually unfolding work ... his heritage has passed on to composition, which is loyal to him in being disloyal; it calls his music by name in producing it anew' (Adorno, 1981, p.146). Thus ends Adorno's essay. Ends? It actually seems more to appeal to a new opening. It calls for action, creativity. Bach's work is not a finished product, nor is it the conclusion of a creative process; on the contrary, it is an impulse for creativity.
 It should be clear by now why Zacher dedicated Die Kunst einer Fuge to Adorno. Like Adorno's essay, Zacher's project reacts (explicitly or not) against the wave of historization that prescribed the exegesis of Bach's oeuvre throughout the 1950's and 1960's. (Undoubtedly, both entertain a political component next to the aesthetic argument. Adorno makes a connection between notions on performing old music and reactionist ideology. Zacher opposes his conservative colleagues that scorn him. cf. Of the Critics .) Like Adorno, Zacher turns against the idea that an authentic performance praxis would adequately correspond with the inherent sense or meaning of a work. Both refrain from objectifying the past as past. Both can only see justice done to the past through a contemporary actualization. In Zacher's work, this is expressed in a number of different versions in which 'Contrapunctus I' adopts many kinds of musical ideas from fairly recent past.