MUS 311 Counterpoint
Q. Fugue (concluded), Chapter 17
Return to Home Page
to MUS 311 Menu
The subject of a five-voice fugue is apt to involve
slow-moving rhythmic values due to the thickness of the texture.
The order of entry in a five-voice fugue should be:
Fugues of Six or More Voices:
Six-voice fugues are uncommon due to the
difficulties encountered with such a thick contrapuntal
texture. Fugues that use this many voices generally
incorporate rests of considerable length.
Two-voice fugues, likewise, are extremely rare.
The Double Fugue:
Double fugue--a fugue in which there are two subjects that
appear together at some point, not necessarily at the start.
Double Fugue Types:
Type 1: both subjects are announced together
at the beginning, though not necessarily at the same time.
Type 2: Subject I has its own exposition;
after that, Subject II may be introduced along with Subject I.
Type 3: Subject II is introduced as
countersubject to the answer; i.e., the countersubject is so
distinctive and important/recurrent, that it assumes a status equal
to that of Subject I.
Triple Fugue Types:
Type 1: Subject I enters alone and has a
complete exposition. After that, Subjects II and III may:
each be treated similarly in turn
enter more or less together while Subject I drops
appear one at a time against Subject I (most common)
All three subjects will eventually be combined, as a
Type 2: Subjects I and II are announced
together, and Subject III then joins them.
General principles in writing triple fugues:
each subject must be a strong line, with
characteristic melodic and rhythmic features
the three subjects must contrast with each other
sufficiently to give an impression of independence--different
rhythmic values for each voice is helpful: 1/2 notes for one, 1/4
notes for another, the third in 1/8th notes.
each subject must reappear frequently enough so that
the ear will hear it as a major recognizable element in the
the three subjects must be invertible to some
Fugues with More than Three Subjects:
- Virtually unknown, except for the quintuple fugue in the last
movement of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony.
Fughetta and Fugato:
Fughetta--a small fugue.
Fugato--a passage treated in fugal style, with imitative
entrances as in a fugue exposition--usually a section in a longer
- Concert fugue--one in which there is particular emphasis on
brilliance and dramatic effect. Freedom of treatment is
characteristic, as follows:
- the number of voices may be increased at times, and chords may be
added, so that the texture becomes more homophonic than contrapuntal
- the episodes may be considerably freer and more extended
- the form of the whole may be more sectional than usual, with
- the subject may be more colorful/animated, or longer than usual.
- Concert fugues are often part of a larger work; they seldom stand
Fantasia fugue--the material is treated with great freedom,
fanciful development, especially after the exposition, which is
Group fugue--fugues that consist of a series of fughettas,
each based on a different subject.
Fugue Writing as Affected by the Medium:
- When written for keyboard, the spacings and movements of
the voices must be kept within the technical limitations of the two
- When written for the organ, a voice may be played on the
pedals, as long as it is not too intricate.
- When written for chamber ensembles, the composer is at
liberty to indulge in wide spacings, frequent crossing of voices,
and melodic patterns idiomatic to the instruments involved.
- Vocal fugues must bear in mind the ranges of the various
voices; they are more likely to be lyrical and sustained than
- Fugues for orchestra may be of almost any character, and
involve no limitations as to the number of voices or their movement.
Return to Home Page
to MUS 311 Menu