Music Composers Unite!
Thanks for posting the article. As usual when someone expresses their opinions I find I like some of them and others not so much. I can agree that the fugues by Shostakovich, Bartok, Mozart, Handel and Beethoven are worthy fugues (though I would not have picked Glenn Gould as performer for the Hammerklavier fugue). The Pachelbel is pleasant but not great (same for Buxtehude, despite him being Bach's idol) and the Wagner is a hot mess (intentionally). As usual there are great pieces that got left off the list (Liszt Sonata in B minor or Fugue on BACH for organ) and nothing by Franck. Frankly, if the Wagner is to be considered a great fugue how about the 5th movement of Mahler's Symphony #5 which is a polyphonic tour de force!?
I do like the inclusion of a bonus by Bach. The little fugue in g minor is a nice palette cleanser and demonstrates once and for all who was the master of the form, and it's far from the greatest fugue by Bach in g minor.
Youre welcome Steve--and I couldnt agree more about opinions!
(and heres mine FWIW:)
I've tried very hard to understand the allure of fugues-- hence this post-- with both composing them and listening to them. But I simply can't. While the somewhat complex technical know how to do it properly seems to be able to be learned, the sheer predictability of how they sound, for the most part, has worn me down, so much so that upon hearing one Im already ready to bail.
And the bar is set VERY high due to Bach, etc, whose sheer genius shines thru ALL of their music.(Which is why I guess I can listen longer to them..)
And in the kind of music I like they are almost simply non existent, or not recognizable!
I favor very short imitative phrases, not so blatantly exposed (as in the opening of many fugues), peppered throughout a piece and find these MUCH more effective, but of course this is just my opinion, and it seems Im in a HUGE minority here--
WHAT is the allure of fugues? Is it the sense of accomplishment of having written one? The physical sound?Both?
Or something else Im totally missing?
Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito
What!? no Froberger? he wrote some excellent fugues:
Back to you Bob,
"WHAT is the allure of fugues? Is it the sense of accomplishment of having written one? The physical sound?Both?
Or something else Im totally missing?"
For me the allure is something that developed fairly early in life. I discovered the organ works of Bach in high school and those fugues were a revelation. In retrospect they're also among the most ambitious fugues Bach composed (with the exception of perhaps the most famous one, the D minor Toccata and Fugue). Ever since I've compared every fugue I've heard with that paradigm. If the comparison doesn't go well I don't consider them worthy fugues (Handel, wrote good but not great fugues). While this may be unfair to composers who preceded Bach, it's certainly valid for those who came after. There are many composers who came who've composed wonderful fugues. I've recently discovered Richard Atkinson's analysis on Youtube of the final movement of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, it details the remarkable structure and craftsmanship of the movement.
Other composers have taken contrapuntal writing to further extremes. In my first response I mentioned Mahler. The finale to the 5th Symphony is awesome contrapuntal writing, but not a fugue.
I'm inclined to believe that people are either wired to enjoy fugues or not. If you're in the latter camp that's okay. If you hear the same music I hear as thrilling and find it repetitive and predictable that's how you respond to it. The adage "your mileage may vary" comes to mind. There's a composer Zoltan Goncz who found logic in the structure of the Contrapunctus XIV of the Art of Fugue and used it to complete the final quadruple fugue. It's worth hearing.
If the completion of this work is boring to you then all I can say is C'est la vie!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Steve--
I'm inclined to believe that people are either wired to enjoy fugues or not. If you're in the latter camp that's okay. If you hear the same music I hear as thrilling and find it repetitive and predictable that's how you respond to it.
Speaking only for myself, that repetitive and predictable quality is what really doesnt work for me..but there seems to be some people who really like fugues. And again thats more fine :)
For myself, in the area of music I most listen to, and compose music similar to, it really isnt something--not even the term itself--Ive heard in many many years.
And of all the different kinds of music I hear daily from forums, FB, SC, etc it really seems almost in complete disuse, with the few examples heard all sharing that same "repetitive and predictable" quality previously mentioned. Its only recently on these forums, with most of the same small group of people, that composers seem to still sing its praises.
The adage "your mileage may vary" comes to mind.
Yep...couldnt have said it better..YMMV, and we all need to write the music, that speaks to us :)
Thanks for your reply Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito