MUS 311 Counterpoint

Q. Fugue (concluded), Chapter 17

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Five-Voice Fugue

  1. The subject of a five-voice fugue is apt to involve slow-moving rhythmic values due to the thickness of the texture.

  1. The order of entry in a five-voice fugue should be:

Subject Answer Subject Answer Subject
I V I V I
  • Each subject will be an octave higher or lower than the preceding.  The same holds true of the answers.

Fugues of Six or More Voices:

  1. 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 Fugue:

  1. 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.

  • A fugue with two subjects that are treated separately, and never combined, is simply considered to be a fugue with two subjects.

Double Fugue Types:

  1. Type 1:  both subjects are announced together at the beginning, though not necessarily at the same time.

  • The two coordinate subjects are most likely to occur in adjacent voices.

  1. Type 2:  Subject I has its own exposition; after that, Subject II may be introduced along with Subject I.

  1. 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:

  1. 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 out temporarily

  • appear one at a time against Subject I (most common)

  • All three subjects will eventually be combined, as a rule.

  1. Type 2:  Subjects I and II are announced together, and Subject III then joins them.

  1. 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 composition.

  • the three subjects must be invertible to some extent.

Fugues with More than Three Subjects:

  1. 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 work.

Concert Fugue:

  1. 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 decided cadences
  • the subject may be more colorful/animated, or longer than usual.
  1. Concert fugues are often part of a larger work; they seldom stand alone.

Fantasia Fugue:

Fantasia fugue--the material is treated with great freedom, fanciful development, especially after the exposition, which is usually strict.

Group Fugue:

Group fugue--fugues that consist of a series of fughettas, each based on a different subject.

Fugue Writing as Affected by the Medium:

  1. When written for keyboard, the spacings and movements of the voices must be kept within the technical limitations of the two hands.
  1. When written for the organ, a voice may be played on the pedals, as long as it is not too intricate.
  1. 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.
  1. Vocal fugues must bear in mind the ranges of the various voices; they are more likely to be lyrical and sustained than instrumental fugues.
  1. Fugues for orchestra may be of almost any character, and involve no limitations as to the number of voices or their movement.

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