25 Preludes and Fugues (2023)
Duration: 72 min.
Dedication: for Matthew Owens
Commission: Commissioned by Matthew Owens
Publisher: Zimbel Press/Subito Music Corp. (forthcoming after premiere and recording release, ca. 2025)
25 Preludes and Fugues (2023) was commissioned by Matthew Owens. It is a concert-length work comprising a cycle of preludes and fugues. As with any previous works I have written titled “prelude and fugue,” I have no interest in duplicating entirely traditional approaches to this hoary form. The world already has more than enough typical pieces in this genre, and so the motivation of this work comes significantly more from the world of “experimental” music, even though the musical material and objects that comprise the piece are often “traditional.”
The preludes and fugues here thus take a variety of approaches. The principal distinction between the two parts is that the preludes are motivated by harmony and melody, whereas the fugues are motivated by counterpoint and are conceived in consistent numbers of voices with imitative entrances. Beyond those basic notions, everything else is fair game. Each fugue’s theme is clearly derived from material in the prelude, although it is not always the theme one might expect.
The work is conceived as a large-scale cycle. The balance, approach, and tonal structure of the work was conceived with the continuous totality in mind. Per Matthew’s request, each of the first 24 movements is based on a “major” or “minor” version of the 12 keys. However, most of the movements employ the kinds of mixed modality that is characteristic of my music. But each one inhabits modes that clearly contain the major or minor triad in each relevant key.
While most movements are similar lengths, the balance between the two parts (prelude and fugue) varies widely to encompass all possibilities.
Matthew asked that the concluding #25 be based on the famous B-A-C-H theme. Music history is also full of more than enough knotty, highly-chromatic contrapuntal edifices built on this theme. Thus the concluding piece goes in a different direction to bring the cycle to a conclusion. The B-A-C-H theme is also joined by the sequence of 24 notes that represents the order of the keys across both halves of the work.