Passacaglia, Interlude & Fugue
About this work:
Passacaglia, Interlude and Fugue for piano, four-hands, was originally composed for organ in 1956 and transcribed for piano, four-hands, later that summer while I attended the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. Its first performance in this form at Columbia University in December of that year coincidentally marked the first appearance of pianists Genevieve Chinn and Allen Brings as a duo.
The passacaglia is based on a ground bass, that is, a recurring melody of several measures which originates in the bass but which in this piece subsequently wanders to other registers, becomes embellished, and finally disappears until the end, when it returns at the climax of the movement. With each recurrence of the ground bass new variation material is introduced gradually becoming, in the manner of a fantasy, more and more elaborate and brilliant. As with so many compositions of the past written over ground basses, the lengths of the variations in my passacaglia also occasionally do not correspond to that of the bass theme causing therefore some interesting isorhythmic effects.
The theme of the fugue, usually called the subject, is derived from the bass-theme of the passacaglia and is given the kind of treatment that one would expect in a fugue by Bach. It is heard constantly imitating itself, for example, often in
different combinations with itself or with a countersubject. The subject has even on a few occasions been inverted, that is, turned upsidedown, a trick used by composers for many centuries. The fugue ends when material first heard in the passacaglia returns as the fugue-subject makes it final appearance.
The interlude was composed as an afterthought when it was realized that there needed to be some relief between two such dramatic and virtuosic movements. In its meditative nature the interlude then may provide relief for both listeners and performers!
Score available from Mira Music Associates. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Version: piano, 4-hands
Year composed: 1956
Ensemble type: Keyboard:Piano 4 or More Hands
Instrumentation: ,2 Piano soloist(s)