Hans Sachs was, of course, the sixteenth-century poet and Meistersinger portrayed in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. In the opera much was made of the meistersinger’s strict adherence to laws of vocal improvisation, one of which was conforming to the AAB form (bar form).
The homage here comes from the notion that this work, while often sounding wildly improvisatory and free, is in fact incredibly tightly controlled. For example, every molecule of the work is governed by bar from, from the large-scale structure to individual note combinations. This is cross-cut by a simultaneous but non-synchronized variations form based on interval arrangements.
The work begins with a single, very long, densely ornamented pitch. This “unison” expands outward little by little before collapsing inward in a jarring gesture as the beginning of the second A section. The piece also ends with a similarly intricate pitch of gasp-educing length.