The Technique and Spirit of Fugue: An Historical Study

The Technique and Spirit of Fugue: An Historical Study

The Technique and Spirit of Fugue: An Historical Study

The Technique and Spirit of Fugue: An Historical Study

Excerpt

The fugues of John Sebastian Bach are so many masterpieces in the realm of Music. Each one is a new and particular creation, for each has its own design, inspired by the character and mood of the subject. Thus, as Bach teaches us, a fugue is not a thing made to fit into a mould called fugue-form, but a thing whose order of growth is inherent in its subject.

In his own way--his own perfect way--he blended counterpoint and harmony as no one else had done and created works of sublime expression. One might reverently say he breathed into Fugue and gave it a Spirit. To me Bach's '48' are an embodiment of Truth.

This book is not a study of fugal composition, that is, EXPRESSION through the medium of fugue, though it might perhaps be called a prelude to such study, for it is largely concerned with the technique of writing. But it is a book which, one hopes, may arouse the young earnest musician to deep contemplation of Bach's works, so that he may draw from them wisdom and understanding such as will guide him in his own endeavours whether he be creator, performer or interpreter. It has also the express purpose of equipping students for the tests in the writing of Fugues as demanded by Diploma and University Degree Examinations, and its design has been influenced by this. Such tests are intended to afford proof of the student's ability to handle well, and to good purpose, the contrapuntal devices commonly associated with fugal writing. A coherent fugue of appropriate texture should be produced even though it may not be an example of composition in fugue. Now Bach's fugues are composition in fugue, and by sheer skill and wisdom Bach has given us almost as many forms as fugues. We find that a fugue may evolve without calling into play all available contrapuntal means--perhaps concentrating on one only, as is more or less the case in the C major fugue, Vol. I of the '48.' In other words each fugue does not attempt to exhibit the whole cycle of contrapuntal devices, nor to fit into the same mould. For this reason the student who seeks his 'model' of fugue-form from the '48' is apt to become puzzled and produce unconvincing work. He neither creates a fugue attaining the level of composition in the Bach sense, nor provides evidence of sufficiently varied skill in contrapuntal device. He needs guidance. Nevertheless Bach is the master to whom he must go and from whom he must learn the scholarship and art of fugal technique.

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