July 2011

July 2011

Monday, 26 March 2012

Want to write a fugue?

So you want to write a fugue?

Glenn Gould once wrote a brilliant spoof on the 'cleverness' and 'nerves' needed to write a fugue.

Constanze Mozart
And you can imagine in the Mozart household, 'frau Mozart' - venting her frustration about the merit of Mozart's (economical) skills - whilst a vase was finding its way through the air towards 'herr Mozart's head: 

"Why don't you ever write a fugue?"

It was such a baroque thing in those days! 

But Mozart finally did in his Requiem, although the end result frightfully resembled Bach's Well Tempered Clavier!

Bach's WTC II a minor fugue

Beethoven though did have the cleverness and the nerves to write fugues. And made the form classical and his own!

Apart from his 2nd piano concerto, which he really wrote before his first, in his Piano Sonatas already in no. 6 he will start using fugal forms and there is nothing baroque-ish about them! 

Opening 3rd movement Opus 10.2

Beware the tempo though and it is good to consider that this Sonata is a tribute to Joseph Haydn and his 2/4 is really to be thought as 4 8's and not in two! There is hence no need to emulate the dazzling speed chosen by most modern pianists, although it seems to be part of the fun! Let it settle over the years! In typical Beethoven manner this final movement is also in Sonata Form and hence is NO  rondo!
Opus 10.2 opening.
The first movement likewise is in 2/4 and in typical Joseph Haydn style, watch those little motives so typical of Haydn. Beethoven has stepped down to the level of the general piano player of his days and he will have that player in mind for the foreseeable future. The sonata also has only three movements instead of four, which seemed to have suited Beethoven's desire to please the publishers.  

The second movement is Minuet and Trio, but really Scherzo and Trio and like the first movement shouts Joseph Haydn all over! But as a tribute, not as an imitation of Haydn's music!

Beethoven must have been in a really jolly mood when he started his final movement! But the fugue as form will stay with him and especially in his final period will elevate his music to a level which stands on its own, transcended above any musical style, also without any consideration of a the ability of the pianists to play them...


Barenboim plays the second movement with great drama and then the fugue... starting at 4.14. Don't try that at home! Even he at 5:23 looses a bit of control, well.. hardly!

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