Tuesday, May 1, 2012

More on "A Very Interesting Program"

An intriguing comment was left on this post, to which I responded. But that got me thinking, so here are some more thoughts on this concert.

Let's sample the concert with clips of the opening pair of pieces by Bach, the prelude and fugue in C major from Bk I of the Well-Tempered Clavier followed by the last piece on the program, the prelude and fugue in E minor from Twenty-Four Preludes and Fugues, op 87 by Shostakovich:

Interesting, isn't it? They are each, in their different ways, very rich harmonically. In the clips I put up above, the Bach fugue is famous for being a stretto fugue, meaning that many of the entries of the subject overlap with one another--sometimes you have three entries overlapping. The fugue by Shostakovich also uses stretto. It is a double fugue, meaning that there are actually two subjects. The first subject is quite slow and is developed for a page or so, then the music stops and introduces a new subject, quicker, in eighth notes. This subject is then developed. Towards the end, the first subject comes back and they are heard together. Each subject is also overlapped in stretto and in one place the second subject is in stretto accompanied by the first subject. Double stretto!

What we are missing is the experience of moving from the Shostakovian harmonic language back to the Bachian. So let's listen to a juxtaposition from the first half of the program, where, after hearing the Shostakovich A major prelude and fugue, we hear the Bach D major prelude and fugue from Bk II. I was lucky enough to find a recording by Melnikov, one of the two artists who will be performing in October:

Very cheerful pair by Shostakovich. The Bach D major prelude is one of the biggest and grandest preludes. What this concert will demonstrate, I think, is that composers can be in dialogue with one another across vast stretches of time, place and culture. Beethoven was in a dialogue with Bach when he wrote the Diabelli Variations. Now there is a program for Staier and Melnikov for next season: the Bach Goldberg Variations in the first half and the Beethoven Diabelli Variations in the second half.

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