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22

A fugue is one of the most polyphonic musical pieces you can write. In a typical fugue there are 3 or 4 voices in play that are each treated independent melodies. While this is going on, you have to not only have to keep all the rules of counterpoint in mind for each voice and make sure the harmony always make sense, but you have a structure to keep in mind ...


22

The counterpoint rules for parallel octaves (and fifths) apply in cases where two or more voices are meant to be heard as independent. Similarly for covered fifths and octaves. (Also for long strings of parallel thirds or sixths, maybe six or more for that matter.) Voices moving in parallel sound like a single voice with doubling or harmonization. These are ...


12

(Note that Bach's "Toccata and Fugue" is two separate sections; if you're looking for fugal writing in the toccata portion, you'll have some trouble!) Fugue is a type of polyphonic contrapuntal writing (the noun is "counterpoint," and "polyphonic" means "many voices"). "Counterpoint" basically just means the relationship among written notes; it stems from ...


9

I hope someone with actual harpsichord experience chimes in, since most of what I'm writing here is hear-say. As you no-doubt already know, the two main things that you lack on a harpsichord, compared to a piano, is a long sustain, and any appreciable dynamics. I've heard that one way to compensate for the lack of dynamics is to vary the duration of the ...


7

I played piano for 10 years before starting harpsichord. I largely play harpsichord now, although I do a lot of pinch-hitting on piano for church services, etc. Learning to play harpsichord well will expand your mind as a pianist and open up new performance opportunities. Additionally, there are many fantastic Baroque composers that are rarely heard ...


6

I would rely on Christoph Wolff's excellent Johann Sebastian Bach. The Learned Musician (published 2001), which features an entire chapter about Bach's great interest for previous and contemporary composers, and also his Bach: Essays on his Life and Works. You should probably focus on the German "fathers" of Bach's keyboard style (other Bachs, Pachelbel ...


6

It's important to remember that the various keys sounded distinct from each other in Bach's day. "Well-tempered" is not the same thing as "equal-tempered." The preludes help introduce the idiosyncrasies of each key in a relatively simple texture before confusing the soundworld with extreme polyphony. They aren't so much warmups for the keyboard player's ...


6

Luke, part of the cause for your confusion stems from the poor grammar in the Wikipedia article. I actually had to read the highlighted excerpt twice to make sure that I understood it correctly. A fugue, begins with what is called a subject, an identifiable motive or phrase that serves as a calling card for the piece - drawing the listener's attention ...


6

I suppose the Peabody Institute might hope that candidates realized that Bach has written an extended textbook on this exact situation, namely "Das Kunst der Fuge." Bach's fugue subject does have a C sharp to define a dominant harmony before ending on the mediant, but he often replaces it with a C natural to avoid the "obvious" cadential harmonic progression....


5

As a harpsichordist and pianist, I can say switching from piano to harpsichord should not pose any significant challenges. I started playing keys on an 88 key keyboard, and then went on to transition to harpsichord, and then a grand piano. As Tim mentions, dynamics do not exist on a harpsichord. Anything that you can play on a piano you'll be able to play ...


5

Short Answer: Just tap eighth notes throughout the entire subject. You'll find that the G♯ lasts four eighth notes, not three or five. Furthermore, Gould gives slight accents to the first of each slurred two-note grouping; this shows that he's accenting the stronger downbeats as opposed to each upbeat. He's definitely playing it the right way! Long Answer: ...


5

The only rules about relative motion are in textbooks. Those rules describe norms or ideals for voice leading in a specific style, but outside of pedagogy there aren't rules. The clearest evidence that these are norms rather than rules is the fact that you can find them in real music of the Baroque and Classical eras. If you include cases of parallel and ...


4

Writing a fugue is a mixture of imagination, organization, and mastery of your tools. If you are making a drawing, keeping track of the perspective, the objects you want to appear, and just what object will obscur what other object can be done using ruler and overpainting/erasing as you go. How much time spend masters erasing obscured objects? Fugue ...


4

The wikpedia reference given by the OP in a comment says nothing about "playing voices in two keys simultaneously". But the assertion that I can't play a C major scale with a C# major scale it would clash is not true in any case. The following example doesn't "clash," by any reasonable definition of the word. Every interval is (enharmonically, if not ...


4

The subject of a fugue is first stated alone, then a second voice is added which re-states it at a different pitch (typically a 5th higher). If this 'answer' is literally transposed it's called a 'real' answer. If it's modified to remain in the tonic key it's a 'tonal' answer. But the initial statement and the answer aren't played simultaneously! To ...


4

No, Bach didn't break any rules, because there are no rules. What Bach did was write music that people still want to listen to, a few centuries after he wrote it. When you read a list of "unbreakable rules* in a theory book, ask yourself one simple question: Did the author of that book ever write any music that is regularly performed today? Of course in a ...


4

'Imitation' is a very broad term for a very broad musical concept. Imagine a composition where a melodic or rhythmic element DIDN'T often echo something already heard? Let's start from the Wikipedia opinion - "the repetition of a melody in a polyphonic texture shortly after its first appearance in a different voice." OK, that excludes rhythmic imitation, ...


4

Well, when one wants an exhaustive list of obscure exceptions to every conceivable musical principle, often the person to turn to is the great Ebenezer Prout, whose books are full of just that sort of stuff. Prout doesn't disappoint in his book on Fugue, where he notes: Though there are limitations as to the note of the scale on which a fugue subject ...


4

It's very easy to recommend fingering for a certain part but that's only half the story. I'd go for the 545 3423 1 as all of that falls under my hand, but there's no reason at all that your hand will do the same! That works for me on the premise that when my hand is resting on the notes involved, each note has a finger ready. Of course it needs that thumb (...


4

I recommend starting with the left hand (12132435). It's more natural as the theme evolves, since the next voice enters with the right hand. Hope this helps!


4

Giving a fugue some "rhythmic identity" is (like most issues in writing counterpoint) just a matter of knowing the right standard tricks to use. Make the notes of the subject either longer or shorter than the rest of the counterpoint and they won't get "lost in the mix". That's all there is to it. Bach knew that sort of trick very well. Take the triple ...


3

You might try "The Bach Reader," which is a compilation of contemporary articles and letters. http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Bach-Reader-Sebastian/dp/0393319563 There are a bunch of biographies (Too many to list) Forkel's and Schweizer's are notable but not very modern. The J. S. Bach wiki notes that Bach's older brother, John Christoph, had been a student ...


3

I might have to disagree with you that it was "solely an academic exercise," but here are some other possibilities: Bach's Musical Offering, where King Frederick II gave Bach a particularly nasty fugue subject and eventually asked him to improvise a six-voice fugue based upon it. In a huff, Bach went home, wrote it, and sent it back to him. The book Evening ...


3

Depends of course on what's considered an "academic exercise". In addition to the above, I would include Johannes Ockegem's Missa Prolationum, which is a fugue, but one in which two or three of the voices have the motive at different tempi. It's a staggeringly complex compositional problem to compose a motive that works out this way. A very academic, but ...


3

I think everyone has touched upon the "aural" feel of a harpsichord and the lack of a real sustain. I'll address the physical aspect of playing a harpsichord. In the piano, you have a hammer striking the strings, whereas in a harpsichord, the strings are plucked. In the case of the plucking, you need to have a certain amount of force (usually same across all ...


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