I posted my fugue in E-flat major back in August last year, but like Liz, the comments about lacking a stretto passage haunted me. Initially, I denied it; the piece was done, I wanted to move on, didn't want to toss things up again, the lack of stretto was to be a lesson for the future, etc.. Then months later, after being away from it for a while, I listened to it again, and the thought came, maybe I could sneak in a stretto or two without disrupting the existing structure too much? Bar 27 was the prime candidate: it had the climactic subject entry in the upper voice, and was a cadential point.  I didn't act on this thought immediately; I let it simmer in my unconscious and mulled over it once in a while.  Eventually, listening to it again, the thought kept coming back to me repeatedly: bar 27 would serve as an ideal place to insert a stretto passage just before the concluding passage.

So a few days ago, I decided to finally sit down and sketch out some possible stretto passages to be inserted at bar 27. My first attempt was a flop: it inserted an extra bar after 27 to accomodate a series of stretto entries, but the result sounded comical and out-of-place. Disappointed, I left it for a few days, thinking that it was probably a dud and I should just stick with what I already had.  Then today, I decided to see if I could salvage the idea.  After a few more tries, the idea occurred to me that perhaps there was no need to insert an additional bar; instead, I could just rewrite the lower voices (which were mostly silent or holding long notes anyway) into stretto entries.  And I liked the result enough that I thought it would be worth posting it here.

So, what do you think? Is this better than the original version? Worse?  Should I keep the stretto entries?  Do they work in this context?  Comments & feedback welcome.

Score: fugue.pdf

Audio: fugue.mp3

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          • <blush> Thanks, H. S. It's funny, one of my goals is actually to write something that has exactly zero vestiges of sonata form - both my Op. 1 and 2 strongly recall sonata form. With my Op. 1 (String Quartet in A minor), that was intentional, but with Sinfonia Solenne it was completely accidental (but yes, the first half of Fuga III feels like, and to some degree, functions as a recapitulation). Other composers have done it - most of Havergal Brian's symphonies have perfectly logical first movements without a trace of sonata form to be found in them. Going back further, there's Nielsen's 6th Symphony, and Holmboe's 9th. So why can't I do this? Sonata form seems to be hardwired into my musical brain, I don't know how to escape it.

            I haven't quite planned this fugue (or pseudo-fugue) out yet in its entirety, and it looks like it will develop the way it wants to. But when it's done, I suspect there will be an element of sonata form in it; possibly the new material in the first episode will reappear in what feels like a recapitulation.

            So if merging fugue and sonata form is a goal of yours, then go for it! Working and striving toward a goal is what makes life worthwhile.


            • Haha, that's funny, my early works were mostly ABA or rondo(-like) forms, and because of that I could not sustain my music over an extended period of time. A simple ABA form simply didn't have the drive to keep the music going after a while. I had read about sonata form but didn't grok it, so my early sonata form attempts were mainly redressed ABA forms rearranged to pay lip service to sonata form; it was dressed up as a sonata form but lacked the essential drive of the form, so it ended up repetitious and ineffective. The first time I finally "grokked" sonata form, it was a major milestone in my compositional development.

              Yet here you are trying to get away from sonata form. 😅 Isn't it ironic how we are moving in opposite directions in our quest to develop our compositional skills?

              I'm actually more interested in what I call "hybrid forms" than pure sonata allegro form. By hybrid I mean the piece can be equally analyzed as two or more diverse forms. Such as a fugue-sonata, or a strophic rondo-variations, or a scherzo-fugue-rondo-sonata. To borrow what Bernstein in his Norton lectures call the "ambiguity" in musical humor, this is music that could simultaneously be perceived as multiple forms, a kind of musical "pun" of one form as another such that it could equally be both at once.

              So far I haven't been able to pull this off successfully, though I have certainly tried. My fugue in C# minor kinda-sorta resembles a sonata form, but it doesn't have a true second subject so strictly speaking it's not a real sonata form. Nevertheless it's organized in a structure that closely parallels one. My dream is to take this to the logical conclusion and have a fugue that's simultaneously a sonata form.

              • It's a tall order, to write a form that truly hybridizes fugue and either sonata-allegro or rondo. Even Beethoven, in Op. 133, moves away from fugue to introduce a second subject group, and Bruckner does similarly in the finale of his 5th symphony. I'm not sure how one would do it. When i said that my Sinfonia Solenne recalls sonata form, I was thinking of Fuga I as the first subject (with a degree of development already), Fuga II as the second subject (even though the fugue subject is a modified inversion of the one from Fuga I), then a non-fugal development ("Evoluzione"), and Fuga III, as I said, is a kind of recapitulation of all the ideas and further development, at the same time, though the material of Fuga II is only referenced in a few places. Along the way the "Interludios" are partly that, and partly transitional passages. But that's not, I think, the kind of thing you are thinking of, and it's not a true sonata form anyway, it just feels like one. The pieces I was referring to are exploratory voyages that move inexorably from one place to another, that have their own internal logic, but don't fit into any of the classical forms. The 1st movement of Brian's 27th symphony is a fantastic example of this - it's a fully developed opening movement that has no second theme and never repeats any of the opening material, or anything else that occurs along the way - and the opening is so innocent and tuneful that it doesn't even drop a hint of what is to come.

                (Even more amazing is that Brian was almost 90 when he wrote it - but that's a subject for another thread.)


                • In the spirit of pushing the boundaries of traditional forms and structures, I wholeheartedly embrace stretching the definition of fugue and sonata form to include such unique gems as Sinfonia Solenne. ;-)  You are, after all, speaking with the weirdo who writes something with an answer entering a minor 3rd above the opening subject and dares to call it a "fugue"; stretched definitions and misfits come with the territory. :-P

  • sometimes I wish I knew what the formal rules for a fugue are so I could understand how your enjoyable little work breaks them. But Baroque music has never interested me, other than the thrill of singing a decently written fugue, so I will likely remain in ignorance in perpetuity.

    • Thanks for taking the time to listen and comment!  IMO, the important thing is whether the piece can stand on its own musical merit. How/whether it conforms to some mold or set of rules that qualify it to be called a fugue, is of secondary importance.

    • This book is pretty well known for "Technique and Spirit of the Fugue" which coincidentally is the title. Depending on where you live there can be a copyright issue with this but it's in the public domain in Canada.


      The Technique and Spirit of Fugue (Oldroyd, George) - IMSLP: Free Sheet Music PDF Download
      • Thanks for the reference!  I think someone else has pointed me to this before, and IIRC I've skimmed over the major sections. This is the one that describes how Bach innovated the fugal form by changing the fugal answer in the plagal register in the old model of fugue, to the dominant key, right?

        • It's been a while since I paid attention to this and I didn't remember that.  This book mentions some of the historical developments but it mainly focuses on technique referenced to Bach. Bach usually had the Answer in the dominant key but the answer to your question is not simple.  A quote from the book:

          " . . . Bach in some cases avoids the dominant key until well into the Answer and sometimes throughout it; or merely hints at the dominant key without establishing it . . . ."

          Part of the problem is the historical transition from modes and just intonation to diatonic scales and well tempered intonation. The book has a long chapter devoted to the Answer.

          • OK, now that I look at the book again, it may have been a different book I was reading.

            The dominant key for the Answer, as I understand it, came from an earlier practice of the answer entering in the plagal register (i.e., it was a modal device, not a modern key change). Part of Bach's genius was in reinterpreting this plagal register answer as a transition to the dominant key, thus unifying prior practice with the then-emerging development of having multiple keys in the same piece.

            In my own writing, though, I view this from a different angle. I see the use of the dominant key for the answer as a way of providing a source of contrast to drive the music forward. (I don't feel any particular ties with the traditional use of plagal register.) As such, I don't consider it particularly necessary that the Answer must be in the dominant key; it could be in any key that makes musical sense, as long as it is a source of contrast from which the music can draw its forward momentum. Neither do I particularly feel the need to return to the tonic after the dominant (or whatever other key) answer enters, as in the traditional I-V-I-V... key scheme in the exposition. I would commonly return to the tonic after the answer in order to reinforce the home key; but I've also let the exposition veer off into a distant key, and the music only finds its way back long after. :-P

            As for the rest of the fugue, I'm not particularly confined by the episode + entry structure of the traditional or textbook fugue; I generally let the music dictate its own direction, so there could be the introduction of fresh, unrelated material, with the subject woven into the texture every now and then so as to do some lip service to fugal tradition. ;-)  The purpose behind the relaxing of the "rules" of the textbook fugue is so that the music can develop more organically, and more importantly, to allow me enough room to potentially shape the music into other simultaneous forms (sonata, rondo, etc.).

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