Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Implied Fugue in Telemann's Fantasia #1

I had originally planned on talking about this in a video; however, after that last video I did, I'm thinking that perhaps that's not the most friendly format for me.

So let's talk about this "fugue." Before I do that though, I need to make a couple of stops. First, the New Harvard Dictionary of Music:

Fugue: The most fully developed procedure of imitative counterpoint, in which the theme is stated successively in all voices of the polyphonic texture, tonally established, continuously expanded, opposed, and reestablished; also a work employing this procedure.

I like that "also a work employing this procedure" part, because that's what we're talking about. Here's a tiny snipped more from the next paragraph in the Harvard dictionary:

...In a fugal exposition, the subject is presented alone in one voice...then imitated or answered, usually in the dominant, by a second voice...Typically, the third voice enters with the subject in the tonic, the fourth in the dominant, and so on until all voices have entered. After stating the subject, each voice continues with a countersubject or free counterpoint...

OK. I'll stop there. We've all heard fugues. You kind of know them when you hear them. Now think of Bach's Art of the Fugue. The Contrapunctus I starts with that all-too-familiar melody, then, four measures later, just like the New Harvard Dictionary predicts, the answer comes in on the dominant while the opening subject continues to do its thing. Four measures after that we hear the third voice back on the tonic. In this Contrapuctus I there are four voices. And we see that's part of the definition of a fugue, ie, "in which the theme is stated successively in all voices of the polyphonic texture." Polyphonic. Multiple voices.

Now, let's stay with Bach for one more minute and consider the Prelude to his 5th Cello Suite. After a dramatic introduction, it takes a breath and jumps into a 196-measure fugue. Sort of. It sounds like a fugue anyway. You have an opening subject. A few measures later you have an answer that comes in on the dominant. Then you have subsequent voices coming in while you hear earlier voices develop. It sure sounds like we're hearing multiple lines weave in and out of each other. Fugue, right? Not quite. With a few minor exceptions for multi-stops on the cello, this piece is monophonic--we only hear one note at a time. Bach tricks us--he starts a familiar phrase and then moves on to something else, letting the listener fill in the blanks on an implied subject or response. he bounces back and fourth with successive eighth or sixteenth notes between the third subject and the first countersubject, giving you just enough information to think you're hearing multiple parts when all you're hearing is one.

Telemann does pulls that same fast one on us in Fantasia #1 (though in much smaller scale--his monophonic fugue lasts for only 16 measures). He develops this implied fugue quickly. It starts halfway through the first movement (vivace). The subject lasts for 2 measures. He brings in the answer on the dominant, bopping back and forth with eighth notes to imply the development of the original statement and barrels through different keys in single-measure or partial-measure chunks--jumping from voice to voice. You can't miss the fugue, even though technically no fugue exists. The challenge--and fun--as a player is to tease out the different parts and to recognize each note as a crucial part of one or more voices.

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