in collaboration with organist Chelsea Barton
Prelude, Trio and Fugue (after Bach)
premiered April 3, 2019 on Chelsea Barton's DMA 2 organ recital
on the Craighead-Saunder's organ, a replica
of 1776 Lithuanian Casparini
@ Christ Church on East Ave in Rochester, NY
additional works in progress:
Prelude and Fugue: Ring-around-the-Rows [prelude pending]
Prelude and Fugue: Dodecahedron [prelude pending]
About this Collaboration
I have been steadily accumulating fugues, now totaling five, since the year 2012, but not adjoining preludes. This collaborative project, toward a series of historically informed works (centering around Preludes and Fugues) for organ, therefore entails both transcription and new composition, with the challenge of composing apt companion pieces to pre-existing fugues, some of which are "older" works.
Video of archived second performance, at St. Paul's Chapel of Trinity Church in NYC
on their Pipes at One series, cued to begin at Chelsea's introductory remarks preceding her superb performance of my Prelude, Trio and Fugue (after Bach), as part of her shared program with organist Malcolm Matthews.
I composed these three movements in reverse chronological order, over the course of two cumulative weeks spanning seven years from 2012 to 2019. Their reverse chronology correlates with their varying degrees of stylistic proximity to Bach: the earliest-composed Fugue as earnest emulation versus the most recently-composed Prelude, which takes a more stylistically remote approach to tribute, with Trio falling in between. I owe both their creation and their nuanced performative realization to Chelsea Barton, upon whose request I composed Trio and Prelude as companion movements for Fugue, which she had adapted for organ directly from a double reed quartet score. The Fugue had already undergone prior transcription from a keyboard work, as originally conceived in 2012, to an arrangement for oboe, english horn and 2 bassoons in 2015, which had enabled addition of a bass line that could not have fit in the hands. Naturally, the pedalboard of the organ accommodates this bass voice, alongside upper voices in manuals, resulting in a readily idiomatic migration to the instrument. I am thankful to Chelsea for recognizing and implementing this potential for adaptation and for inviting the composition of additional movements.
My guiding prerogative for Trio, besides to sustain a three-voice texture, was to approach voice-leading and affect from a baroque standpoint but favor unusual and dissonant cadences, the likes of which would not be outlandish in Bach but, if present, would be relegated to transient status, e.g. anomalous harmonies that owe to subordinate tones in densely voiced passages. I have given particular, recurring privilege to "interval stacks" that combine 7ths and 9ths with 4ths and 5ths (including tritones in the latter category, as augmented/diminished variants). The Prelude revels in the available fullness of organ as a contrapuntal vehicle, toward a thoroughly 5-voice texture, whose perpetual motions know no hierarchy, achieving equivalency, from bass to treble.
Both Prelude and Trio are loosely in "e minor,” to match the Fugue and unify the set, but I have opted against a key signature in the former two, since they are ultimately chromatic and tonally adrift. The set is dedicated, with admiration and appreciation, to Chelsea, to whom I am thankful for a fruitful collaboration and intellectually rewarding exchange of ideas.