I'm studying the difference between 16th and 18th Century fugues. I've noticed something and wonder whether it is a notable trend, or just a coincidence.

First, consider this fugue from Missa Dies Sanctificatus by Palestrina. Each of the three expositions includes a statement of the subject or answer in each voice.
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Next, consider the second fugue in WTC Book 1, in C minor. I won't paste it here because it's so ubiquitous. But I will call your attention to the counter-expositions in that fugue, which each have only one entry of the subject or answer, not one in each voice.

Given that these fugues are two common examplars, can a claim be made that 16th Century fugues are more likely to have the subject/answer stated in all voices in counter-expositions, where it was less common in Baroque?

  • 1
    Comparing renaissance imitative vocal counterpoint to baroque instrumental fugues is a bit of a stretch, since renaissance vocal pieces typically had different thematic material for each line of text (not evident here because the entire rather short movement sets two words that are nominally spoken three times, accounting for the three "expositions"), while baroque instrumental fugues used the same subject (and usually countersubject) throughout. It might be more instructive to compare this to Bach's (and others') choral fugues and instrumental counterpoint with baroque instrumental fugues.
    – phoog
    Mar 20, 2022 at 20:47
  • Oooooh good point @phoog. I wonder if the phenomenon I notice is more due to it being a vocal fugue than a 16th Century one
    – nuggethead
    Mar 20, 2022 at 22:01
  • 2
    @AndyBonner my comment was based on Wikipedia's fugue article. It's certainly possible for voices to enter without stating the subject in 16C vocal music, but these aren't necessarily "exposition" moments. The problem with the terminology seems to be that the word fuga originally referred to any imitative counterpoint, so whether something is "A Fugue" depends on your (likely anachronistic) definition. The article suggests that the instrumental ricercar is the more influential ancestor of the baroque fugue, which seems plausible but I don't have time to look into it today.
    – phoog
    Mar 21, 2022 at 13:39
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    @AndyBonner I certainly have many more ideas about the differences between the two styles, but they're purely anecdotal, more in the nature of brainstorming, and they are unsupported by formal study or analysis. In any event this question focuses on one specific point of possible difference (as it should, given the nature of the site), so a lengthy compare-and-contrast discussion is probably not warranted here, but another difference worth noting is that the "subject" of the Palestrina is arguably six notes long or even shorter, while baroque fugue subjects are typically far longer.
    – phoog
    Mar 21, 2022 at 13:48
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    @AndyBonner (and nuggethead) another thought is that the Palestrina-style imitative counterpoint here is more akin (in Bach's work) to the chorale fantasia (here the Palestrina has no cantus firmus, but there are of course numerous 16C pieces that do). The imitation in Bach's chorale fantasias, at least the choral-orchestral ones, similarly has short motivic heads that lead into relatively free counterpoint (as compared to the more constrained counterpoint between subject and countersubject in formal fugues).
    – phoog
    Mar 21, 2022 at 15:17


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