Op 87 - No. 10 - C sharp minor - Fugue
music || notes || words prelude


The subject of this rather quiet fugue is wistful: the half notes and the strong accents place a pensive, floating emphasis on the 5th and the 4th degrees of the scale, moving upward to the 1st degree only at the very end. The top half of the scale predominates while the weakly accented drops from the 5th down to the 1st establish a sort of ghostly reference tone in the bass whose character is fully realized in long pedal tones at the end of the fugue.

There are two quite faithful countersubjects whose contours echo and enhance the feeling of the subject: they slowly sink and rise with gentle undulations at the end emphasizing the subject's arrival on the tonic. As is typical of many sympathetic countersubjects, they contrast rhythmically with the subject, using both longer and shorter notes with a subtle offbeat syncopation as if gently adding support to the subject by means of resonance and ornamentation. The countersubjects are written to lovingly cradle the subject.

This somber, but gently swaying character throughout the fugue finds its chief contrast in a lovely sequence which dominates the episodes. It is first introduced in a codetta between the second and third subject entries in the exposition and thereafter faithfully returns in episode after every pair of subject entries. The sequence always involves at least two voices in near canonic imitation. Close inspection reveals that there are actually two different sequences, one in each voice. They are close enough to create the impression of imitation, but different enough to suggest a beautiful independent complimentariness. The step wise fluidity and slightly increased motion of the sequence brightens the mood each time. The episodes offer a new lyricism against the almost hollow quality of the subject.

The function of the sequence, and even its literal content suggests a kinship between this fugue and Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, No. 24 in B minor.

Upon each new listening, this fugue seems to grow more heavy: heavy with the weight of something deeply felt, a weighty theme and character fully sounded out, written across the wide range of this far flung song, deeply contemplated, the world weary weight of an emotional journey, the ripeness of experience, heady, distilling into the wine of wisdom whose unwashable stains of hardship inform the poignant depth of a heavy heart, the aching lyricism of compassion. This fugue does not represent these things: it is these things, directly shaped as musical expression which unfolds your own listening experience into the real-time reality of becoming these very things yourself. Once again, this prose reaches for poetry but stumbles on abstraction, cliche, the linear and the fundamentally unmusical nature of cheap linguistic coinage. The music is so much more specific, yet (un)utterably non-verbal. And it is so exquisitely, inexpressibly beautiful. It is far more real.