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piano sextet score - six pianists playing six pianos

FUGUE     42'00"
Mega-counterpoint in twelve voices scored for piano sextet - six pianists playing six pianos

General Description

A piece this big for six pianos needs some explaining. The score and sound extracts below do it best. They are worth more than a thousand words so I suggest you start there.

Still words should try, so here goes:

Fugue is a joyful noise, red blooded engaging music with wow factor climaxes and mellow zones of cool laidback intimacy.

Fugue is both traditional and completely new. It's enormous. It's on an epic scale but its mood is mostly cool and laidback not grandiose - six pianists playing six pianos exploring twelve lines of melody.

A repeated middle C begins a single statement of an unaccompanied melody, that is just over one minute long. This is the main theme – the subject. There is then a silence. A new version of this melody begins and very, very slowly the subject is combined with itself and three new themes - counter subjects - in ways that create a gradual but always forward moving climb, an at first barely perceptible but inexorable building of energy that starts from that repeated middle C and with determined inevitability builds, builds and builds. Through a series of climaxes on the way, each climax bigger than the last it explores many combinations of the material leading to the greatest climax at the end.

It is as if we start on the flat valley floor and, pacing ourselves well, climb doggedly straight up the side of a magnificent steep mountain enjoying wonderful views as we climb but are totally mind-blown by the exhilarating vista at the summit.

Fugue was shortlisted for performance by The Society for Promotion of New Music.

Great to Play

Fugue is 42 minutes of intimate and subtly intricate chamber music for six pianos.

A major satisfaction for the players lies in exploring how each part fits into the whole. There are twelve lines of counterpoint, one for each hand of the six pianists. It is as if each played a two part invention and the whole was an intricate invention in twelve parts, an endlessly changing interconnecting balance of lines and shading in continually shifting patterns.

Another creative satisfaction in playing Fugue is the long range control of the piece’s cool but inexorably rising energy. The challenge for the players is to judge when and how much to hold back their physical energy for greater climaxes ahead by letting the rising tensions and textures of the counterpoint do the job for them.

Great for Audiences

Fugue is slow moving. A chilled-out way of listening, letting the music wash over you sensually, works really well.

Those who want to focus their attention and understand what is happening need to know only two simple things before they hear the music. It is then easy to follow the overall design and to understand details of the counterpoint.

Fugue has four themes - one Subject and three Counter Subjects – and that is all. There is no passage work whatsoever. It is built entirely out of the regrouped combinations of these four themes. Listen out for the delicate and intricate interplay between these themes which continually shift in an ever changing kaleidoscope of sound.

The main theme that starts the piece as a solo – the subject – returns in alternate sections where it is of central prominent importance. It is then not heard in the next section.

In short: Blocks with the Subject, alternating with blocks without it and everything made up of combinations of the four themes.

Why write Fugue?

I wanted to. I wanted to test the techniques of my musical language against tradition in a very classical way. It has another payoff. Reinventing familiar forms gives an audience a very helpful way into a piece. It gives them familiar models against which to measure a composer’s work. It works with the cultural language we are used to.

Anyone who writes a fugue that uses some of the traditional elements of that process, however originally they reinvent them, will have their piece compared to Bach - and probably to the individual’s favourite Bach at that! Clearly this is not an easy option for the composer!

Score Extract and Listen

Click to read and listen to extracts

Extract 1

Extract 2

Extract 3

Extract 4

A page at a glance:

piano sextet score - six pianists playing six pianos

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