Dec. 24, 2018

Getting Started With Writing, Part XXXVIII

The Op. 30 Postlude in A Major is a stand alone 4 voice fugue written in quadruple counterpoint with 3 countersubjects maintained throughout (photo).
In this work the subject begins boldly on scale degree 3 and includes a trill in its tail which points strongly to the dominant key, thus a real answer in the dominant is supplied.
As the entries proceed through all related keys in a similar manner to all the other fugues described on this blog, plus one unrelated key (G Major), the subject and each countersubject take turns entering in the bass in chronological order.
The trill was written into the notation to facilitate the intended execution but is omitted when the subject enters in the bass, as the pedal is not concerned with it; here, since the trilled note is preceded by the upper auxiliary note, the trill starts on the note itself.
During the episodes separating the entries the outer voices (soprano and bass) are silent as the inner voices (alto and tenor) carry the music forward; these episodes are all of uniform length and constructed using fragments of the subject, countersubjects, their inversions, or by means of sequences.
The final entry in the home key, following many examples left to us by J.S. Bach, places the subject in the bottom octave of the pedals.
A short coda rounds out the piece during which an additional voice (low tenor, or baritone) enters on the middle staff.
This music ends in 9 voices on a big tonic chord with a held 2nd and double pedal.
Ornaments and trills are like salt and pepper -- they add some zip to the musical recipe at times, but their overuse can ruin a piece; they need to be used sparingly, and wisely.
Ornaments, when present in the score, are a part of the music -- important thematic elements put there by the composer for good and sufficient reasons, to be observed in performance just as much as any other notes written into the score whenever that score is a faithful copy of the autograph.
We should be very careful therefore, when the autograph is missing, about performing ornaments appearing in parentheses inserted by various editors based upon a single copy, or copies of copies, or maybe adorning the work ourselves with whatever additional ornamentation suits our fancy; the performance of a well known and famous work adorned this way with a liberal sprinkling of ornaments foreign to the score turns the work into something else.
When most, if not all, extant copies of an early work are traceable to and agree with a single copy, then the ornaments appearing in that single copy are to be regarded as the most correct, if not definitive, reading.
It's entirely possible for an otherwise outstanding recording of a well-known organ work on a period instrument to be spoiled by the well-meaning additions of ornaments or prolonged, florid cadenzas inserted under the smug guise of increasing its stylistic authenticity.
Someone may want to put this writer in the pillory for saying so, but no matter how exciting, unique, or impressive the results may sound or how flamboyant the mannerisms, if any, an organist engages in when exercising such liberties, this kind of tampering still places the performer, whether they are oblivious to it or not, on a very slippery slope.
We notice something of the same thing in writing or improvising codas; if the choice is between the longer or shorter of 2 versions, the shorter one is generally preferable.
It's a case of less being more [See blog, Less Is More].
(con't in Part XXXIX)