Contrapuntal Music Stretto from Fugue of Opus 66
Composed in the Baroque Style
As a life-long devotee of classical music, my interests have lead to a study of theory and composition. The following is a piece I wrote for solo violin--an instrument I have played for several decades--which is in the style of an 18th century unaccompanied violin sonata, similar to those composed by J.S. Bach. Because digital renderings of string instruments--violins in particular--leave much to be desired, for presentation here I have scored this version predominantly for harpsichord. Parts of the slow movement, the entire final gigue, and the repeat in the first movement include a cello in high register, which is not too bad for a sampled instrument. My reason for this unusual scoring is merely to help the individual voices stand out, since independence of the simultaneous melodic lines is a necessary feature of contrapuntal music. The listener is invited to imagine this piece as if its various lines were all played by a single violin soloist, and indeed, this sonata, although technically demanding, is entirely playable as written.
"Jane" Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin;
Brian Zegarski, Opus 66
1st Movement -- Ouverture (1.7 MB) Download & Play
* 2nd Movement -- Fuga doppia__* (1.8 MB) Download & Play
3rd Movement -- Adagio (2.1 MB) Download & Play
4th Movement -- Presto alla Giga (0.9 MB) Download & Play
* If you wish to download only one, I'd suggest the 2nd movement. If you have a slow, dial-up connection, listen to the midi version of the fugue through your own sound bank; it will load very quickly. Or listen to the very tiny, single-voiced 4th movement as a midi. In both cases, the sound quality is only as good as your browser's midi plug-in--perhaps a bit flat and 'wooden', but you'll get the gist.
Analysis of the Structure
Inspired by the solo violin sonatas of J.S. Bach, my sonata follows a similar four-movement, consistent key-signature plan. The opening movement in 2/4 time is actually somewhat more of a French Ouverture (though not ternary in form), with its dotted rhythm and contrasting middle section--in this case less contrapuntal but more stylistically written for the solo violin as an arpeggio passage featuring a variation of the opening theme.

Next follows the Double Fugue in common time, an exercise in strict four-voice, invertible counterpoint. The exposition features two subjects--each with counter subject--which are treated separately until near the end when they are combined in both their original form and in contrary motion [top-to-bottom mirror image]. A brief stretto entry [answer starts before subject statement is complete] followed by more contrary motion prepares the listener for the striking, virtuosic, closing stretto section. Here, the first and second subjects--with their respective counter subjects--appear in stretto, then in stretto again, but with the 2nd subject in contrary motion; then the 1st subject is heard in contrary motion against the 2nd subject, in stretto. This is answered by two entries of the 1st subject and one of the 2nd subject, with all three together in stretto.

Listen also, midway through the fugue, for the cancrizans statement in which the primary subject enters in retrograde motion [i.e. backwards] in stretto with a false entry in regular position. This is answered in retrograde.

This contrapuntal tour-de-force is accomplished on an essentially monophonic instrument, the violin, by carefully employing multiple stopping of strings in a manner that is totally playable, yet would challenge any performer.

In contrast to the dense counterpoint of the fugue, the gentle Adagio in 6/8 is an extended duet aria in which the violin's g-string serves as the bass accompaniment voice.

The sonata concludes with a lively, Italian-style gigue in 6/8 time. Unlike the previous three, this movement features no multiple-stop techniques, yet harmony is implied by the juxtaposition of successive, rapid notes in presto time. Particularly noteworthy is the echo effect heard near the beginning and created by alternating open and stopped A's. As in Bach's typical treatment of the Giga, the second section is based on contrary motion of the original theme.

Thanks to Campbell Barton for his superb cello and harpsichord soundfonts (available at Thomas Hammer's website) which I used to record the midi file before converting to mp3.

Copyright © 2004 - 2011 Brian Zegarski, all rights reserved.