And now for the musical portion of our programme….

Prout, Ebenezer. Fugue. Augener, London, 1891, Ninth Imp. Book previously owned by Lillian Hirsh-Tralters, New England Conservatory, 1930.

A FUGUE is a composition founded upon one subject, announced at first in one part alone, and subsequently imitated by all the other parts in turn, according to certain general principles to be hereafter explained. The name is derived from the Latin word, fuga, a flight, from the idea that one part starts on its course alone, and that those which enter later are pursuing it.

The SUBJECT of a Fugue is the theme announced in the first instance by any one part or voice without harmony [except in the case of a double, triple, etc. fugue], on which the whole composition is founded. By this it is not meant that the subject is to be heard continuously throughout the fugue; this would probably cause great monotony, although instances are to be met with (e.g., in the first fugue of Bach’s ‘Wohltemperirtes Klavier’) in which the subject is rarely absent. What is intended is that the subject is to make its appearance, at more or less frequent intervals, throughout the whole of the fugue.

The ANSWER is the transposition of the subject into the key of the perfect fourth or fifth above or below the key of the subject. In an enormously large majority of cases the keys for the subject and answer will be the tonic and subdominant instead of the dominant. The answer will in the first instance be given by whatever voice has the second entry, and the choice of this voice…will largely depend on what voice first announces the subject. The answer is frequently an exact transposition of the subject; in this case it is called a real answer; and a fugue which contains a real answer is said to be a “real fugue.” At other times the answer is a modified transposition of the subject, alterations being necessitated by the form of the subject itself. Such an answer is called a tonal answer; and a fugue in which there is a tonal answer is called a “tonal fugue.” The rules which enable us to decide whether an answer should be real or tonal will be fully discussed [elsewhere.]

The first voice, which announced the subject, should never be silent while the second voice is giving the answer. It always accompanies with a counterpoint, which may or may not be intended for subsequent use. If it be, it must be written in double counterpoint, so as to be able to accompany the subject or answer either above or below. A counterpoint which accompanies subject or answer systematically (though not of necessity invariably) is called a COUNTERSUBJECT. We sometimes meet with fugues that have more than one countersubject.

A fugue may be in any number of parts, but, whatever the number, they should all (with very rare exception) enter in turn at the commencement of the fugue with either the subject or the answer. That portion of the fugue which extends as far as the conclusion of the subject or answer (as the case may be) by the voice that last enters is called the EXPOSITION of the Fugue.

The exposition is usually followed by the first EPISODE. An episode is that part of the fugue in which for a while neither subject nor answer is heard. It is usually founded upon some material taken either from the subject or from one of the accompanying counterpoints, in order to give unity to the composition as a whole. The episode is also employed for purposes of modulation, as will be seen when we come to treat of it later.

The close of the first episode is sometimes, though not always, followed by what is called a COUNTER-EXPOSITION. This is a second exposition in the same two keys as the first, but with this difference, that the voices which before had the subject now usually had the answer, and vice versa. Sometimes the counter-exposition precedes the first episode, and follows the exposition immediately. Very frequently also it is only partial; that is to say, only some of the voices, and not all, take part in it.

The counter-exposition, if there be one, will generally be followed by a second episode, different from the first one. To this second episode (or to the first, if there be no counter-exposition) succeeds the MIDDLE SECTION of the fugue. Here a much greater amount of freedom is allowed to the composer; in fact, there are hardly two fugues the middle sections of which are identical in their construction. There are no restrictions in this section as to order, interval, or key of entry, though in the best models we mostly find that here the two principle keys (tonic and dominant) of the fugue, which have been almost exclusively employed during the exposition, are in general avoided, or only incidentally touched on. The entries of the subject in other than the chief keys of the movement are here also mostly divided by episodes.

The FINAL SECTION of a fugue is that in which a return is made to the original key. Here the subject appears once at least; very frequently the answer is also repeated. It is not uncommon, especially in vocal fugues, to find a Pedal point … introduced toward the close of this final section. sometimes there will be two pedal points; in this case a dominant pedal will come first, and a tonic pedal at the conclusion of the piece. Pedal points are also occasionally, though much more rarely, to be met with in the middle section of a fugue….

An important feature of many, though by no means of all, fugues, is what is known as a STRETTO. this is an Italian word meaning “close,” and is applied to that part of a fugue in which the entries of the subject and answer succeed one another more closely, that is, at shorter distance of time, than in the first exposition. For instance, if the subject be four bars in length, the answer will, in all probability, enter at the fifth bar. If, now, in the subsequent developments of the fugue the subject is followed by the answer (or by the subject itself) in another voice at the fourth, third, or second bar instead of the fifth, so that the first entry, so to speak, overlaps the second, we have a stretto. A stretto may be merely for two voices, or all the voices of the fugue may take part in it in turn. Very frequently we find more than one stretto in the same fugue. In that case the interest of the music is not only maintained, but heightened by making each successive stretto closer than the preceding.

CLOSE Fugue: one in which the answer enters before the completion of the subject – stretto in the first exposition

STRICT Fugue: one with no episodes or where the episodes are entirely drawn from subject or countersubject.

FREE Fugue:one in which episodes are constructed on matter unconnected to subject or counter-subject.

RICERCARE or RICERCATA: STRICT fugue employing canonic imitation, augmentation, diminution, etc.

FUGUES BY INVERSION, AUGMENTATION, DIMINUTION: Where answer is given as inversion, augmentaion or diminution of the subject instead of a transposition of the subject.

FUGHETTA: Fugue of small dimensions, not developed at any great length.


From flight

Many voices

One organism

I am beginning to see the connection between psychology and music


Author: fuguestateknits

Wife of one, mother of six, gram of five (so far) and lawyer for many young persons, I love to sing, read, knit and walk. My politics are somewhat left of Marx and I want to hear what you think, too!

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